E3 Musings: Is E3 – and shows like it – sustainable?

Every year I feel that E3 – and shows like it – seem to lose grasp of being a true representation of the gaming industry. So while the BBC reports on it with the usual surprise that the multi-billion dollar industry is a big deal, “It may look like a Hollywood premiere of a blockbuster film, but this is the reveal of a new video game” (in relation to Sony’s trailer for Spider-Man) the rest of us clamour over every new trailer while websites and YouTubers rush to declare X the ‘Winner of E3’.

But herein lies the issue. Once upon a time – and I’ve written about this before – E3 was *the* show that could launch hype and expectation (along with the TGS, obviously) but the industry has shifted massively since the heady days of SEGA vs Nintendo. We now have seen the rise of Steam, as well as the rise of GoG, Humble and other PC storefront platforms as well as the incredible shift of indie games going from niche to mainstream. Indeed some of these games got a brief shot at exposure as part of EA and Microsoft’s shows but on the whole the point of shows like E3 is BIG BUCK BANG GAMEZZZ!!!!!1one!

As Sony hit a mid-generational slump (not a criticism) and Microsoft gear up for their XB1 on Viagra it was evident that Nintendo and Ubisoft ‘won’ E3 because of the sheer amount of new games that we saw. In an ever busy show – yet with less on show also – the biggest announcements were mostly made well ahead of the show. Destiny 2, COD: WW2 and others were given the time to be promoted and discussed ahead of the clusterfuck of journalism that occurs traditionally around E3. Indeed Sony – via their annual PlayStation experience – revealed their hand early, but then felt no need to show off The Last of Us 2 at the biggest event of the year. It’s all a bit weird.

Does that suggest that E3 is no longer the platform to launch big titles from?

I think so, especially when you consider that with Ubisoft and Nintendo showing off some potentially risky projects and weirdly amusing ones too the big boys were waving their consoles around like war banners trying to win E3 without a flurry of new stuff.

Conversely the EGX 2016 was dramatically more focused upon indie fare. The event was a bit more chilled out – and a lot more pleasant come to think of it – as a result, and it became as much a celebration of the medium than a sales pitch. Similarly PAX shows have a very similar outlook and yet these events do not warrant near 72 hours of non-stop coverage and live streams. Would it be great to see, yes, but it wouldn’t fit in with the vibe in my opinion.

It seems to me that E3 has gotten smaller while the industry is getting bigger. Some games are too big for a five minute slot on a stage, and others are obviously too small. I wonder how E3 2018 will look, given this trend to move outside of the event itself to have satellite shows and pre-pre-pre-show reveals.


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