E3 is a mess. The ESA may be a bigger mess. The whole thing is broken and because of deals already signed it might not be able to save itself from the udder futility it’s heading towards. It doesn’t have to be this way either, that’s probably the most damning and frustrating part of this. This isn’t about if E3 is dying or if it’s necessary anymore, it’s about squandering an opportunity to capitalize on a week where people take off from work because they are excited to see what the future of gaming is.
I don’t even know where to start with this topic honestly. The ESA and the game companies need to get it together and realize what they have here. For five days in early June, they have hundreds of thousands of people not only willing to sit down and watch an hour and half of a companies pitch, but fucking excited to do it. The hardest thing, finding an audience, is already baked into the event. Because it’s still called E3 that brings eyes year after year and the ESA and the institution of gaming as a whole is watching the event drown in the gutter streaming towards the nearest sewer drain like it isn’t necessary.
The ESA is largely to blame, as they are responsible for the event and they have been trying to crawl out of the self-dug pit they’ve created for themselves over the last handful of years. It seems like they couldn’t figure out how to get out of their own way long enough to even begin dreaming about fixing the issues with this event. Game companies carry some blame too, between deciding to abandon the event or save money by setting up there own event offsite they can’t seem to get together and agree with each other to show up at the same place and time to provide the best show possible. I think there are solutions to these problems, but I’m not sure how viable they are at this point. Honestly, E3 can look at the NFL for a blueprint, because the NFL has found a way to take a similar event and expand it, creating a can’t miss viewing experience from a large quantity of NFL fans. And no, I’m not talking about the Super Bowl, but talking about the NFL Draft. The NFL saw the growth of interest in the NFL Draft and the fans started to tune in more over the years because they liked the veil of randomness and the unknown, looking forward to seeing where the future players go that will elevate their team. You had to tune in to see what player went where, and when they went. This is awfully similar to E3 as fans tune in waiting to see what unknown gets unveiled to the world and learn about the future games that are trying to elevate the field. The NFL saw this and blew the event up creating a calendar-marking event for ALL football fans and ratings, as well as event attendance, have been rocketing up. This is what E3 needs to be, and what it can be. But it’s going to take a memorandum of understanding between the major players to band together and realize that everyone coming together is what’s best for the medium. Most of all though, the ESA needs to realize that the current production as it is isn’t working and quite frankly has become an embarrassment. I don’t have or pretend to know all the answers to fixing E3, but I do strongly believe that getting out of Los Angeles is the most important first step. Much like the NFL has done with the draft, moving around to different cities seems like a first step I’d strongly be exploring. Not only does this create an opportunity to lower convention floor prices that are absurdly expensive at the LA Convention Center for companies, but it also creates an opportunity for fans from different places to attend. It also creates buzz for the event at different points in the year as announcing where it’s going to take place can take on an effect a la the NFL Draft or Wrestlemania. It can also help galvanize the companies that have chosen to use external sites in Los Angeles back into one space that makes more sense to attend. They also need to look to something like Gamescom and create spaces for fans to do different things (not limited to waiting in lines to play/see demos) and for people working/covering the show.
Those are just a few basic ideas that seem obvious to me. I don’t want to see E3 go away, and especially don’t want to see it slowly fade to irrelevance which is the track it’s on right now. Please understand what the highest high possibilities with this event can be and realize more people want to tune in to E3 and be excited about the industry as a whole. On one hand there is the industry that has recently banded together for things like cross-play trying to provide a better experience for players and games alike, and there is the industry that can’t even remotely get their shit together to figure out loot boxes and pay-to-win models that has now sparked heavy interest from both Republican and Democratic state politicians over the past few years. Come together and fix an important, THE most important week of the gaming year, E3.