E3 2019 is quickly approaching, less than a month away as of writing this article. There have been a number of writers, YouTubers, podcasters and others speaking doom and gloom for the beloved expo that we’ve nicknamed “Gamer Christmas”. I will agree that the hype levels for E3 have been dropping in the last couple years, but does that mean the end of this tradition? It could be, but I still see a future for the Electronic Gaming Expo even if it has to change formats a bit. In this article, I want to touch on the history of E3, Sony’s exit from the expo, and the current state of E3 2019.
This topic is totally up for conversation, my opinions are my own and shouldn’t be taken as fact. We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the topic by tweeting at us (@GamingGroceries) and we’d love to start a conversation about this. With all of that said, let’s first start with the brief history of E3.
The History of E3
With all that is being said about E3 being outdated and needing to change with the industry, ironically the expo started as a response for the video game industry to gain more respect. In the late 80’s to early 90’s, the Video Game industry was still trying to recover from the affects of the great Video Game crash of 1983.
Mainstream audiences were still skeptical of the medium and Video Games at the time were primarily marketed to children, so companies like Nintendo and Sega had to slowly climb the mountain of entertainment value by sharing the platform with other electronics. Video Game companies had to show off their products at shows like the Consumer Electronics Show where they shared the floor with tech companies like Panasonic, IBM, Casio and others. Sega of America’s president, Tom Kalinske, was especially frustrated with how Video Games were treated at CES:
"The CES organizers used to put the video games industry way, way in the back. In 1991 they put us in a tent, and you had to walk past all the porn vendors to find us. That particular year it was pouring rain, and the rain leaked right over our new Genesis system. I was just furious with the way CES treated the video games industry, and I felt we were a more important industry than they were giving us credit for."
Kalinske and others in the Video Game industry wanted new options to market their products; enter the first Electronic Entertainment Expo.
In the year 1995, the first E3 was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center and would host the big three contenders in the industry; Nintendo, Sega, and Sony. The first E3 was the push that the games industry needed to gain respect in the mainstream entertainment business. The audience got to see how Nintendo would continue to fight off pirated games, the mistakes of Sega rushing the Sega Saturn console at an insane price point of $399, and the famous words of Steve Race announcing the price of Sony’s Playstation (credit: SoldierMWS):
E3 1995 had a huge attendance of 40,000 people and would be seen as the greatest event the Video Game industry had ever seen before. The following year attendance grew to almost 58,000 and popularity of the expo grew, even when it had to switch venues for a couple of years. We watched throughout the years the growth of the industry from the attendance skyrocketing to near 70,000, to a new contender in the console wars from Microsoft in the year 2000, to developers taking the main stages in 2010 like Konami and Ubisoft.
Things seemed to be flying high for E3, until a dip in momentum between the years of 2015 and 2017. E3 2015 was arguably one of the greatest years in gaming from Guerilla Games venturing into open-world adventures, EA supporting indie developers with games like Unravel, and Bethesda shaking the house with the announcement of Fallout 4 releasing only a few months later. That all changed in 2017 with some disappointing changes and a slight fabrication in attendance.
E3 2017 was the first year to allow attendance from the public which sold 15,000 tickets, this would show on paper with a raised attendance but in actuality the press was starting to lose interest. More and more Video Game reporters started to find other ways to get information to public faster rather than waiting for a yearly expo. With digital articles and “leaks” becoming more relevant, times were changing rapidly and E3 seemingly could not keep up with the amount of information the public was getting. The internet was becoming a wild playground and Walmart Canada was the king of the court.
With interest and relevance quickly slipping away, Sony responded in a way that no one could see coming; leaving E3 to host their own online conferences.
Since the very beginning in 1995, Sony has been a major showcase at E3. In November 2018, however, Sony had announced that they will be skipping E3 2019. This announcement left fans of E3 feeling confused and left an impact of realization that times were changing in the industry. Head of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Shawn Layden, gave some explanation as to why they were skipping E3:
“…the trade show became a trade show without a lot of trade activity. The world has changed, but E3 hasn't necessarily changed with it. And with our decision to do fewer games, bigger games, over longer periods of time, we got to a point where June of 2019 was not a time for us to have a new thing to say.”
Layden explained that this was a business decision to better communicate with retailers, journalists, and consumers. Considering that Sony spent an enormous amount on their 2018 Press Conference just for it to end in low momentum with most of the announcements already known to the public, it would make sense for them to take a different approach. Why spend all of the company’s finances and resources when YouTube streaming is a platform that exists? In March 2019, Sony announced that instead of holding massive conferences they would instead host livestreams online which they would call “State of Play”.
State of Play livestreams are much like Nintendo Direct streams, a short stream to quickly announce and showoff the latest games coming to the PlayStation network. This idea is much more cost effective for the company and can be quickly put together which leads to more livestreams per year. Sony is looking towards to the future, beating leakers to the punch by releasing information much quicker as well as meeting consumers where they are at the time: online!
So far, the two State of Plays that we’ve seen have been fairly lackluster with a few exciting announcements sprinkled in. We may not enjoy these live stream presentations as much as a big flashy E3 Press Conference, but this is where the times are heading with more games being released than we can keep a track of. Sony is ahead of the curve and they don’t seem to be heading back in their old ways anytime soon.
Sony’s Departure from E3 is going to make an impact for the long term. While Nintendo and Microsoft are feeling like they’re on top as royalty in E3, Sony is sitting back in their chairs feeling as though they’ve made the smart decision. Whether or not they did make the right call, I don’t think we’ll truly know until a couple of years from now, but what we can look at is the current state of E3 this coming summer.
The State of E3 2019
As a fan of E3, there is a strange vibe surrounding the usual hype I have around this time of year. Sure, I may still feel like this is Gamer Christmas to me, but you can’t argue that there is not as much meat on the bones of E3 this year. For one, EA Play won’t even be in the same venue as E3, marketing as its own separate event in a different location. For another, as we said earlier, Sony has stepped down from this year when they have been in attendance since 1995. Bethesda has already announced that they will not show Starfield nor Elder Scrolls VI at this year’s press conference and even stranger, Netflix has announced that they will have a panel at this year’s E3. Netflix!
We still have the major contenders of Microsoft and Nintendo still giving a press conference in June. Microsoft has promised that they will unveil their next-gen console in their press conference and I’m also guessing that there will be a slew of announcements coming from their newly purchased studios including a new IP (Intellectual Property) from Ninja Theory. Nintendo are the kings of surprise announcements so I can’t even begin to attempt a guess as to what they will show at E3, but I can’t help but feel like they dropped their big announcements during the Nintendo Directs throughout the year. I won’t count either of these massive companies out of the surprise presentations we may get, but it also feels as though we’ve heard of over half of the things they’ll be showing off at E3.
Ubisoft is another curious case going into E3 2019. The company has plenty of IPs and studios to make some stellar announcements and I’d like to argue that they had a phenomenal show in 2017, but they also like to leak their own games. We’ve seen the leak of a Viking-era Assassin’s Creed inside Division 2, Watch Dogs 3 to be set in England based on an alternative ending in Watch Dogs 2, and I won’t count this as a leak but they also just dropped a live stream of the next Ghost Recon game mere weeks before their E3 press conference.
There’s not much left to the imagination when talking about Ubisoft at E3 this year, there’s still plenty of announcements they could drop but there’s already so much they’ve already given to the public. As of writing this article, Ubisoft has just recently announced that they have also delayed the highly anticipated Pirate game, Skull & Bones, once again. This leaves me thinking what even is the point of watching the Ubisoft press conference?
There is still some light at the end of the tunnel when thinking about this year’s E3. As I said earlier, there is still the news to come from Microsoft’s newly acquired studios especially with Compulsive Games and Ninja Theory to present something new for their fans. There is also the Square Enix presentation that will have more information on the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake and hopefully (hopefully!) some new information about that Marvel game they’ve been developing for years now. Limited Run games has already tweeted a promise that we’ll be seeing a PS Vita at E3 which is exciting to see what they have in store for that platform. We also know that Digital Devolver is going come out swinging after releasing amazing titles such as Ape Out, the Messenger, and my personal favorite Gris (which if you haven’t played Gris, you need to get on that ASAP).
The current state of this year’s E3 is a mixed bag in my opinion. They have some heavy hitters leaving the main stage, but it also gives more room to lesser known studios to take the spotlight. While times have certainly changed since 1995, I still believe that E3 will always have a place in the hearts of gamers. While we get our information about gaming news faster than ever before and leaks coming out before companies can control them there is still one thing that conferences like E3 still have as the upper hand; experiences.
In the near future, I don’t think E3 will be known as the ultimate news source for upcoming games as it has been known for, but instead it will be the ultimate concert-like experience for gamers all over the country. For E3 to move forward in the future, I believe they need to shift their focus from the big show stopper presentations to the show floor and tailor it for the public to get the best experience money can buy. Times are changing for the way we get information about upcoming games, so why try to fight the future when you should be forming your own future?
Other Video Game Conventions and Expos such as PAX, Gen Con, Long Island Retro Gaming Expo and others focus on giving you an experience with other like-minded people. The vendors want to meet you, the panels want to inform you, and the attendees want to build new friendships (well, most of them. Shout out to my other Socially Awkward homies out there). Going to gaming conventions are like going to music festivals, something that you look forward to going with a group of friends to meet people you truly admire. It’s the experience of E3 that will live on throughout the years, not the press conferences that repeat the information you already know.
I believe that the organizers of E3 have already known this for a while, they started selling public passes in 2017 and the studios have really upped their game for the show floor props. In the next few years, I’m hoping that E3 will soon start to shift their focus on the show floor for the fans that want a massive experience they can’t get anywhere else, a Disney World of Video Games if you will. Time will tell if the Expo will start to take this route, but the way things are going currently they need to make a decision very soon.