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Is E3 still relevant?

More and more these days I find myself debating who E3 really benefits. As I do, I’m finding less and less names on the list. It strikes me that the show now feels like something that happens because it’s a traditional staple of the industry calendar rather than something that’s genuinely necessary. E3 was, after all, cemented long before the internet became the powerful and versatile force for communication that it is today, and as such it seems increasingly outdated. 

The core problem for me is that E3 is an intensive scrum, with every element of the games industry fighting for media attention over a very short period of time. There’s no way in Hell that even the biggest press team can give every game and developer--however big or small, but particularly the latter--the coverage it came to the show for in the first place. As such, the platform holders and mega-corp publishers get the lion’s share of attention, if only because the products on show from those guys are inherently going to be the guaranteed big-hitters in terms of web traffic. 

Thus we have an ironic and not entirely healthy situation where what should be a huge, eclectic celebration of the wide-ranging output and innovation of the games industry becomes simply another stage for the high-budgeted mainstream stuff that was always going to get the biggest slice of the publicity pie anyway. A lot of the guys and girls who really need a platform like E3 get lost in the fray, and might as well not be there at all. 

You can see increasing evidence of the fallout from this problem in the groundswell of other events that are springing up every year. Events like the various flavours of PAX and this year’s Horizon to game-makers' own Gamers Days are cropping up all the time to satisfy the needs that E3--for all of its reputation as the ultimate games event--fails to supply. The fact that Horizon is billed as “an alternative to what we've come to expect from standard E3 fare” sums up rather succinctly the gulf of irony between E3’s purpose and what it actually delivers. 

And even being one of those behemoth publishers doesn’t put the exhibitor in an inherently great position. The increasing focus on “Who won E3?” rather than “What cool stuff was at E3?” turns their events into a combined arms race and turf war, with only one company ‘allowed’ to be victorious while the others are implicitly branded as losers and bashed for months on the internet regardless of the individual merits of their presentations. It’s a ridiculously black-and-white approach to what should be a celebration of diversity in gaming, and it's almost certainly the reason that big games and console reveals are increasingly happening via separate, more controlled webcasts these days. That treatment is just better for everyone. 

Yes, having a games event that attracts the entire world’s mainstream press is theoretically a good thing, but with E3 being such an overblown circus, the problem of focusing on the biggest, loudest guns is even worse in the mainstream media. And on the years that AAA doesn’t present itself well (as I felt was the case last year), that’s an awful lot of tar from the same brush covering a whole lot of developers in the eyes of the casual wider audience. 

Focused, game and developer-specific coverage, delivered online and on-console. That’s a much clearer and more democratic way to get announcements out. Let Nintendo Direct lead the way."

Looking for a second opinion? Here is UK editor Justin Towell's take on whether E3 is still relevant.

21 comments

  • Nikku7 - June 22, 2013 12:51 p.m.

    While I agree with all of this, I can't honestly say I don't enjoy the grand spectacle of this over-sized pissing contest. This E3 was one of the most fun I've seen in years.
  • grannysmith - June 22, 2013 3:27 a.m.

    I've seen many an E3 pass by in my years, and to me they've always been a bit irrelevant to us normal people. I mean, we look at a game and say "Ooh that looks pretty," or "Oooh that looks fun," and we don't really thank about this big convention at the other side of the world. They're all just repeating what we already know, anyway, and spending far too much money doing it I don't like those celebrities they always bring on, either. I was born before television was a common sight and I'll bet I play more games than any of them!
  • sharknjar - June 21, 2013 11:34 a.m.

    E3 needs to be a celebration of gaming. Take the hardware manufacturers out of the equation. Keep their games but focus on the developers and not the executives. We shouldn't judge games based on our hardware of choice or the fanboy pandering of executives. We should end E3 excited for upcoming games, not worrying about whether Sony, or Microsoft, or Nintendo were able to spin a better line of BS in over produced media conferences. Make it about the games. Hardware companies should all go the route of separate events or Nintendo direct style showcases. But we should be able to check our cynicism at the door and celebrate what makes gaming special at E3.
  • StrayGator - June 21, 2013 5:07 a.m.

    many of the points above are valid. a few to the other side: 1. it is a focal point of gaming info for non-enthusiasts / mainstream media. sure, the informed gamer can do without E3, but the casual/mainstream/whatevs crowd needs a big, noisy occasion to tell the that THINGS ARE HAPPENING. 2. fanboys make everything horrible. if you are not one however, comparing the presentations can give you a rough assessment of how each company is going to fare the next year. this black/white dichotomy doesn't exist outside of comment threads. sure, it's possible for one show to outright "win" or "lose" the conference (nintendo gave good example for both in the last few years) but it's not imperative. I'd say that were it not for the DRM curb-stomp, all this year's participants would fall in the more-or-less-okay camp. 3. it's fun! for some, at least. for an evening or two i can put aside my jaded "games will be released, people will play them" attitude and enjoy dense announcement blitzes, not unlike NBA fans i'd otherwise mock for staying up at 3 AM to watch an important game live. 4. u jelly bcz americans go to it and not u
  • JarkayColt - June 21, 2013 5 a.m.

    This question of E3 being relevant gets asked every year now, doesn't it? So quite evidently, there is certainly SOMETHING wrong with it. It's just harder to place exactly what it is. But I do think Nintendo are doing their reveals right with their Directs. They can choose to showcase their announcements when and how they want. I hate that all these major games industry announcements have to be made all at once during this one event. At least, that's how it used to be, anyway, but as you say, there's now a necessity for these things to leak into smaller events at better accommodating times and places in the year. I can't see E3 being hosted multiple times a year, so it's definitely going to become less and less relevant as a platform. To all the companies in the industry; just come out with info when you want. It spreads like wildfire on the internet anyway, and it'll stop one moment of the year being rife with news whilst the rest is at a dearth.
  • mafyooz - June 21, 2013 12:41 a.m.

    "It’s a ridiculously black-and-white approach to what should be a celebration of diversity in gaming" Absolutely right. It's one thing to debate the relative strengths and weaknesses of a system, but at the end of the day people will buy whatever they feel suits them best and just so long as they got enjoyment from it, what difference does it make if its PC or console, or Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo? All the childish bickering and name-calling over "my gamez is teh best and if you don't think so then you is fagz" is as pointless and ludicrous as insulting someone over their choice of washing machine or toilet roll! It's also part of the reason why games are still largely seen as something dumb and shallow for kids, when things like Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us are more and more proving that they can be far more intelligent, well acted and emotional than anything Hollywood has managed in decades!
  • BackwaterRifle - June 20, 2013 9:32 p.m.

    This is the most intelligent thing I've read all week, and that's something coming from a guy who's IQ is 132.
  • wadesmit - June 20, 2013 11:27 p.m.

    And still not smart enough to know that if you say things like that, waving about a numerical assessment of yourself, it doesn't make you cool or likeable.
  • Moondoggie1157 - June 20, 2013 11:58 p.m.

    Yea, saying stuff like that just makes you sound like a douche...
  • PatHan-bHai - June 21, 2013 4:34 a.m.

    Well, atleast it makes him him just sound like a douche :P
  • shawksta - June 20, 2013 5:13 p.m.

    "The increasing focus on “Who won E3?” rather than “What cool stuff was at E3?” turns their events into a combined arms race and turf war, with only one company ‘allowed’ to be victorious while the others are implicitly branded as losers and bashed for months on the internet regardless of the individual merits of their presentations." This so damn much
  • Sinosaur - June 20, 2013 4:37 p.m.

    While I checked up on some stuff on GamesRadar about what happened, and listened to the E3 podcasts, I had no desire to watch any of the press conferences and even skipped most of the trailers simply because there was an overwhelming glut of information (and a horrifying overflow in my Twitter stream). So, essentially E3 is some big event that I get filtered through various sources until the major news comes out. What this means is E3 didn't mean anything for me except that there was a lot of busy stuff going around, more news that usual showed up, and not much else. And this is someone who's in the 'check a gaming website almost every day' audience who would probably be key target demographic. In other words, I kind of agree with Dave that E3 doesn't matter much. Also, I miss hearing Dave not laugh at the Towell Joke Factory.
  • BladedFalcon - June 20, 2013 3:46 p.m.

    I think Hooters is just sore that he hasn't been invited to an E3 for at least 3 years if not longer :P In all seriousness, I can kinda agree. I mean, one of the biggest issues I complain about huge companies nowadays is their ridiculous spending... And well, what is those huge setups in E3 if not ridiculous amounts of money spent? I enjoy having a huge annual event to be excited for, but I could definitely do without it being done in a showfloor and with conferences that no doubt cost millions to make. So yeah, I agree that I'd just rather prefer it if everyone just did what Nintendo and Konami are doing.... Just make those videos better please. I liked that Nintendo went straight for the games, but Iwata as a "host" was just painful.
  • shawksta - June 20, 2013 5:35 p.m.

    E3 in general is just a money spending convention to see who can spend the most money to get the most spotlight, accompanied by games and investor convincing and its been working since 1995. As painful as it is, Iwata's doing it so he feels connected to the fans, the fact that he's willing to force himself to learn better english just to talk the whole way through and doing his trademark side-ways hands "Directly to you" pose on "The 7th Floor of the Nintendo Headquarters in kyoto." The other directs had him tackle a few things than transfer to other people entirely including Reggie, they need to do that more, or just have more Reggie since's he in general is the better Nintendo Spokesperson. Lest we forget, THAT women during 2009, she was apparently mad she was fired and not able to present at 2010 XD
  • BladedFalcon - June 20, 2013 5:45 p.m.

    Oh, you mean the lovely Cammy? :P And well, I'm not saying they necessarily need to hire a spokesperson but... Yeah, just have Reggie, or someone that's just more fluent or used to presentations to do them. I'm not knocking on iwata's English, or saying that he can't speak at all. But to lead an hour long presentation, and actually EXPLAIN things in details about a game, it IS kinda tiring to hear someone speak like that, and his explanations end up sounding more like lessons you'd give to little children.
  • shawksta - June 20, 2013 11:50 p.m.

    I agree, he tends to explain more things than he should but his speaking tends to throw you off when he does. Reggie is basically Nintendo's main Spokesperson,The only other Spokesperson they ever give a chance is Bill, who is otherwise Miyamoto's translator(For one hell of a long time btw, since GC, maybe even more) and is always in the videos with Miyamoto. He does some witty remarks but, yeah they kinda backfire.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBLRNVcLTyI
  • runner - June 20, 2013 3:04 p.m.

    I think I read some where that said "...Sony and MS are competing with each other while Nintendo just focusing on doing their own stuffs..." or something along these line. As time passed this seems like a smart move and make much more sense to me instead of just jumping the bandwagon with others.
  • GOD - June 20, 2013 2:40 p.m.

    Nintendo directs is how the conferences should go but I feel that the show floor isn't outdated at all because it allows companies to show off their games to the media under their own terms and let the media gain a lot of hands on coverage in one place. The problem with just releasing these demos to the public online is that their files will be torn apart and game elements they don't want to announce yet will be exposed, so it's important the companies get to stay in control when showing off their not quite finished products. Pre-recorded videos of all the game and system details you want, without any of the live hiccups or terrible streaming, followed by the show floor coverage where they show off the actual content. Sounds good to me.
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - June 20, 2013 2:27 p.m.

    An approach like nintendo direct is the way forward. Elements of E3 such as the booth babes are so dated and archaic

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