E3 Isn’t Important (For Most of Us)
“Adapt or die.” So said Darwin a great many years ago, and this has become a mantra in the business world today. It’s important to recognize when things are changing and be ready to change with them or face one’s own end. Such may be true for E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. For quite a few years, it was the only show in town- it was before the Penny Arcade Expo and New York Comic Con. It started in 1996- back when SNES games were still in production and the Nintendo 64 was brand spanking new. Things were very different back then- the spread of information was slower, and physical magazines published information reaped at the massive conference, year after year.
As time went by, things began to change. The internet began leaking into our lives, and with it information on anything and everything became available with unprecedented speed and ease. There’s no such thing as waiting a month for a magazine to your mailbox loaded with articles about upcoming games- you just flip a switch on a tiny box and the information’s there waiting for you.
It’s sad to see so many gaming magazines dying off right now, but does this mean that E3 is doomed to die with them? Not necessarily. Lot’s of these gaming magazines are still alive online, where there’s a different model for getting information to people. The trouble is, E3’s model hasn’t changed to match this model. Back when the internet was young and weak, it was better to put screenshots in physical publications- nowadays, though, it’s stronger. Posting screenshots on the internet is much faster, and most publishers have the press download these screenshots, trailers, etc., that are being released at E3 through the internet.”So what?” You might be thinking that none of this information’s really important, since publishers do the same thing at other game shows, like PAX and the Tokyo Game Show. The thing is, there’s a big difference between these shows and E3- openness. E3 is shut to the general public, and it’s really just meant for people within the industry. We all know what goes on at E3- journos talk to developers, try games and attend press conferences. Stuff gets announced. That’s just the way it is.
The trouble is, E3 doesn’t have much to set it apart from PAX and the TGS besides the fact that the event is industry-only, and while that certainly helps professionals connect with one another, it doesn’t do much for else for anybody else. It’s not a very good system for the little guy, the little guy being indie developers and smaller publishers. E3 might help them get noticed, but there’s only so much attention they’ll receive from the press. If these were the good old days of magazines, things could’ve been a bit different- people used to read magazines over and over again because that’s all they had. On the internet, things are different. There’s so much information coming in, which is wonderful and terrible, and it’s a nightmare come E3. Why? Because a few big games and events will dominate coverage. You’ll have a hard time getting people to talk about your wonderful little game you made in your basement with a decade of hard work. There will be nearly endless commentary on little things done by big people, and nearly no talk about big things done by little people.
I’ve noticed that at shows like PAX, though, indies seem to thrive alongside big-budget games. Is this because PAX is open to the public? Not really; it’s mostly because of the way the show’s laid out. That being said, PAX seems to have a lot more going for it for the general public than E3, which is why I think it has already become the big expo worth paying attention to- not E3. Think carefully about E3 last year. What do you remember? Maybe you could think back a couple years- there were game and console announcements, but that’s about it. Can you think of a smaller, more niche game that got big thanks to E3? I can’t really.
Perhaps a change is in order- E3 could take steps to shift it’s focus to indie games and games on other platforms in order to remain relevant. Lot’s of people complain about the lack of good games on Android, for example- it’s not that they don’t exist, it’s just that nobody knows what they are. Why can’t E3 shift some focus to mobile? It couldn’t hurt to show off some worthwhile games on platforms that don’t receive enough appreciation, and it could help keep E3 relevant to observers at home and to smaller developers who are out there innovating and taking risks. Some parts of E3 are also notably backwards- scantily clad women showing off games? Check.
I’m pretty sure that E3 is going to be around for quite a while- it’s not irrelevant for certain members of the industry, and it’s pretty good place to launch a new console and for the press to quickly conduct interviews and try big new things hands-on. Maybe it’s still important, maybe it isn’t. What do you think? Sound off below.