Comic book fans have Comic-Con, motorcycle enthusiasts have Sturgis, moviegoers have Cannes, and bikers have Goodwood. No matter what your hobby or interest is, there’s likely a massive event to celebrate it that’s on your to-do list.
For gamers, that event is usually E3 – or, at least, it was. While E3 is technically a trade show, over the years the event has grown into a celebration of gaming: media attend to report on the biggest games to come while fans attend to get their hands on the latest versions and be among like-minded people. . I can only describe it as a gamers paradise. Where else would the average person have it luck to play the next Borderlands before its release? To meet their favorite Twitch streamer in the flesh? Or even meet the cast of 13 Reasons Why?
But the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the event go fully online in recent years, as opposed to its previous form of in-person broadcast with lectures broadcast online. Earlier this week, organizer ESA confirmed that, again, there won’t be any in-person E3 this year – in fact, it’s unclear whether there will be an E3, digital or otherwise.
That makes sense, given the unpredictability of the world right now, but you’re starting to feel like it’s not just a defensive measure against Covid. Instead, it seems like a way to slowly and quietly put E3 to the pasture. E3 appears to be dead, and I can’t help but mourn its demise.
A place of belonging
I’ve only been to E3 once: E3 2019. Like many gamers, the event has been on my to-do list since I was a kid, and I’m happy to say it didn’t. did not disappoint. The buzz in the LA Convention Center was contagious and the possibilities seemed almost endless. We can’t help but get carried away. “That’s why I do this job,” I muttered to myself as I wandered the giant booths and saw developers I’ve always admired. I’m not afraid to admit I cried when Halo Infinite was announced.
But it wasn’t just the adrenaline rush of the news or being among respected peers that made E3 feel special, but the feeling of belonging: they were my people. Teens reeling with excitement after getting their hands on the game they’ve been lining up for all day, parents carrying bags of free merchandise for their buzzing kids, someone disguising themselves as Kratos eating an oversized pretzel. Fans deserve this annual pilgrimage.
But that doesn’t mean fans should have to attend in person to feel a part of the celebration. Going to LA is simply not accessible to everyone and the pandemic has made it clear that E3, anchored in its physical location, has become somewhat disconnected in an always online digital world. Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest streaming only underscored this.
E3 vs Summer Game Fest
That said, the Summer Game Fest also looks a bit disjointed compared to E3. While E3 consists of several condensed days of events and lectures, the Summer Game Fest acts more like a global event for the publisher’s individual lectures. That means the ads are more spread out and frankly it doesn’t really matter. to feel as a cohesive event, especially in 2021 when some conferences have been held under the E3 2021 or Summer Game Fest banner – or both.
While some prefer E3, it’s clear that Summer Game Fest is certainly more accessible (ignoring the plentiful amount of ads and sponsorships), especially in these uncertain times. Where E3 is primarily a face-to-face event, with lectures being streamed, Summer Game Fest is fully digital, broadcasting lectures around the world, but also offering fans downloadable or streamable playable demos to try out at home. and teaming up with editors for in-game events.
It is the latter that is the key here. Summer game party allow players around the world are interacting with the event from the comfort of their own homes, which has never been more important than in today’s climate. In contrast, E3’s recent digital offering just hasn’t been of the same caliber, meaning it has become increasingly obsolete now that domestic and international travel has become difficult.
For E3 to become relevant again, it would have to be more akin to Keighley’s event, at least in its digital form. The E3 app and site need to be more than just a schedule and map guide, instead offering interactive events, competitions, and the ability to watch lectures on the go, wherever you are. Maybe it could even include previews and interviews to encourage audiences to actually engage with the content, making E3 a brand to engage with, not just a show. What Summer Game Fest does brilliantly is make its lectures and content feel interconnected, whether through hashtags on social media, celebrity referrals, or events in the world. game. Geoff Keighley is firmly taking the pulse of the industry and it shows.
But the non-existence of an in-person element of Summer Game Fest (aside from its Kickoff Live show) certainly makes itself felt and this is where E3 really shines. This is probably because E3 is primarily marketed as a face-to-face event, providing a funfair-like boon for gamers to explore. That feeling can’t quite be captured digitally: the feeling of being in a room with thousands of others who are as excited as you are. This element is only part of E3, although it may be over-emphasized. E3 is built on a solid hybrid event, as the lectures are broadcast worldwide and players have access to demos (albeit limited) at home via the publishers. But the whole package needs to be wrapped in a more polished bow to be successful in a post-Covid world.
Maybe E3 could even go further than that, becoming an in-game event on its own or (and I hate to say it) a metaverse experience, allowing those who can’t access the event in person to to experience the gravity and scale of the conference without ever leaving their home. Just imagine attending E3 in Animal Crossing, swinging over to a booth, and watching a preview of an upcoming Nintendo game. Nowadays, that is not beyond the realm of the possible.
With an enhanced digital experience, E3 could be an exciting experience for gamers at home or in the living room. In short: E3 no longer needs to be promoted in person first. By focusing on a hybrid model, with a digital offering with global reach but a convention for those who want to experience it firsthand, ESA could be among the winners. That would mean fans can come together to celebrate the game, in person or online, with this in-person item offering something that Summer Game Fest doesn’t currently offer.
That being said, we might see the Summer Game Fest fill that gap once the pandemic is over. And, given the favor ESA lost for the E3 organizers (remember the data breach that leaked personal information about people working at the event in 2019?), It could be a likely option.
The last nail in the coffin
E3 has been running out of steam for a few years now, the pandemic has only been the last nail in its coffin.
In recent years, Sony has chosen to skip E3 in favor of hosting its own events, and after the cancellation of E3 2020, other publishers have followed suit, either by participating in the Summer Game fest. , or by going it alone.
It makes perfect sense. After all, publishers who host their own conferences – even under a Summer Game Fest banner – allow them to control their messaging and tailor their conference to their liking. But, more importantly, it allows big announcements to breathe a bit. So rather than fans and media perhaps focusing on a few important announcements from a global event, they can select the key announcements from a publisher conference.
But I can’t help but think that while this benefits publishers and developers, it dilutes the meaning of the occasion somewhat. E3 is a roller coaster of announcements and a mainstay of the game’s year, but running those announcements over the months can lead to lower interest and hard-to-follow conferences for the average person, especially with the Summer Game Fest program that lasts for months. I know I even have a hard time keeping track of what is and isn’t a Summer Game Fest event.
Ultimately, if E3 finally breathes its last, we need an event to take its place: an event to celebrate the games together, both in person and online. Gamers need their Sturgis, their Cannes, their Comic-Con. Right now, Geoff Keighley is set to usher in the successor to E3, if he wishes, but I can’t help but keep my hopes up that ESA will finally pull itself together and host the modernized E3. that the fans deserve.