Much like the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), a vast array of industries hold product shows designed to display the newest goods and innovations on offer for those who are invested in that particular industry. Some are less well known than others. For instance, my parents owned a home construction business when I was younger and would attend a smaller and more local, non-affiliated version of the NAHB International Builders Show. There, you could view anything from building materials to new types of insulation. Perhaps, more well known is a little event called The Consumer Electronics Show (CES). CES attendees, and anyone following the press coverage, get a glimpse of the newest tech ranging from poster-thin TVs to holographic sign displays.
E3 remains a bastion for gamers and gaming industry associates alike. Since its inception in 1995, attendance has remained fairly steady, ranging from about 45,000 to 70,000 attendees from year to year except for the years 2007 and 2008 when an effort was made to lower attendance in hopes of making the show less of a hassle for both industry attendees and exhibitors.
But, with Nintendo choosing the last few years to focus on only a handful of major titles, and Sony now following suit based on their recent announcement, some are wondering if E3 is even relevant anymore. With the releases of the XBOX One X and the PS4 Pro, incremental upgrades for consoles are becoming the standard. No new hardware is expected and barring a major surprise, might not be for at least another year or so.
With a plethora of other smaller game-related expos now available and a growing market of gaming industry blogs and sites, companies like Sony have plenty of chances to talk about upcoming projects with an expectation of wide coverage. The ever growing cost of producing a AAA title has also caused companies like EA to close major studios such as Visceral Games as recent as last year. This means that Sony and Nintendo’s concentration on a handful of AAA titles at E3 is likely a trend that will continue, particularly as Sony has begun to lean more heavily on the acquisition and distribution of third-party and indie titles as a major selling point for their system.
It seems then, that the question of whether E3 is still relevant really depends on whether you are looking at the event from a consumer or industry standpoint. As a consumer, I can’t say I am looking forward to this E3 as much as I have in years past. We have seen so much already about many of the titles expected to lead the top showcases. Again, barring any surprises and perhaps some of the indie titles that will make it into the presentations or attract enough media attention on the show floor, it seems likely that we will not come out of this E3 with much that is new or even particularly exciting.
From an industry perspective, however, E3 still gathers massive numbers of visitors representing press, developers, and others for whom E3 represents a gathering of the industry’s best and brightest products and talent. E3 is one of the few gaming events that manages to break into the mainstream press on a yearly basis, garnering the attention of those who perhaps would otherwise never venture into the gaming culture aside from perhaps a mobile game here and there when they are bored on a flight. To the industry, I can see E3 still seeming just as relevant now as it was in 1995. I don’t see that changing.
However, I think E3 will need to change, and we are seeing a bit of that now. I predict, as time goes on, E3 will remain a large event for the industry, but it’s showcases will remain much more limited. As independent developers become increasingly more relevant and important to the industry, including for leading companies like Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, E3 will tend to focus more on a few larger AAA titles as has been the trend the last couple of years.
The event will focus more heavily on companies showcasing who they are, rather than their newest wares. Press interaction will be the main focus and E3 will become a bit more of a PR event than the place to go for the latest and greatest gaming innovations and titles. I am not saying this aspect of E3 will completely vanish since, for now, it remains a great marketing tool for manufacturers and developers. However, as the industry becomes more player focussed as a part of its outreach to a growing base of non-traditional gamers, and as indie titles become more popular, developers and distributors alike will increasingly depend on exposure through more consumer-based expos such as PAX.
E3 remains a powerhouse for the gaming industry, drawing the attention of the masses both inside and outside of gaming culture. From a marketing perspective, E3 will likely remain a staple for the industry. But, as time passes and the industry becomes more consumer focussed, developers will begin depending on more player-friendly expos such as PAX to connect with their audiences. Likely, we will see more major announcements coming out of these expanding epicenters of gaming culture and E3 will fade into the shadow of the industry that keeps it alive, even as it becomes less and less relevant for gamers.