When I was in college 10 years ago, the build-up to E3 was like watching Christmas films in December. The gradual anticipation of this impending behemoth of an event increasing, and my excitement building in the process. “What new games will Sony unveil?” “Will X finally get a sequel?” As an excitable youngster, E3 was the marquee event for video games, and I love video games. However, that was 10 years ago. The world has grown substantially since then and the concept of E3 is dead. It’s simply outdated, over-hyped, and causes nothing but flame wars, lies and dissension.
Smartphones are now commonplace, and we have fully interactive touchscreen devices, smart watches, etc. The human race continues to excel and the world seems to become more technologically advanced year-on-year. I myself am now obviously 10 years older, and whilst the buzz of new game reveals and gameplay footage is arguably stronger than ever, I’d rather have this shown to me without fuss – and without a 5-minute spew of verbal diarrhea to appease shareholders.
If you order a meal with chicken, you don’t expect there to be lots of bones to remove from it—you want it to be naturally digestible. E3 press conferences have generally become over-produced, sensationalized performances overflowing with chicken bones. I really think the concept of E3 is dead, and that online is the way forward. Sometimes the natural course of life provides growth and opportunities to move on—that’s what E3 should look to do. With the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the current worldwide pandemic, I feel this is make or break for E3. Will people really miss it?
This isn’t clickbait garbage like most things you read online nowadays, these are the heartfelt sentiments of someone that, being from the UK, has stayed up until 4 a.m. watching all the press conferences. Someone that aspired to be a video games journalist growing up so that he could attend E3 and tick it off the bucket list. Someone that had video game reveals drip-fed to him like morphine and fanboyed in unceremonious fashion. But now I can get that same satisfaction with much-shorter, bite size broadcasts. We have seen E3 2020 cancelled, should it be for good?
Nintendo Direct and State of Play Have Shown The Light
Let’s just start with the biggest point and dive straight in. Nintendo and Sony have it bang-on with their short presentations that talk games and more games. I hadn’t really seen this kind of condensed format until I got my Nintendo Switch last year. Soon after, I stumbled across “Nintendo Direct” and was nearly suffocated by game announcements in a short space of time. It was awesome. Then, on March 26th, 2019, Sony wanted a piece of that cake. So they launched their own version called “State of Play”. Just trailers and gameplay without the fuss.
Nintendo’s E3 2019 Direct was basically an extended version of their already successful formula. With each crisp “Switch Snap noise”, another game was shown off and another bank account suffered. Who needs money or rent when Breath of the Wild 2 beckons! The success of Nintendo Direct and State of Play has also forced Microsoft’s hand as they’ve now launched their own initiative, “Xbox 20/20“, which will be a monthly showing of games as they build towards the release of the Xbox Series X.
You know what you’re going to get what you want with these directs, the things you ACTUALLY want. Not musical performances.
More Theatrical Than A Production Of Cats
Wait, you didn’t tune into an E3 press conference to see a musical performance instead of a game?! Yeah, me neither. I don’t really understand it, to be honest. All that tells me is that you either don’t have much to show, or you’ve got your priorities all wrong. If it’s a live performance that accompanies gameplay, then that’s OK. But time and time again we’ve been subjected to musical performances that, whilst entertaining, are not what you tune in for.
Everyone is guilty of it.
- Bethesda – Rage 2, E3 2018
- Ubisoft – Virtually every year with Just Dance
- Microsoft – Usher Dances to Dance Central
- Sony – Sony Press Conference Orchestra, E3 2016
I get it. It’s a mood-setter. It’s a way of engrossing your audience and enraptures them in a cacophony of spellbinding sounds to warm them up. But in all honesty, if someone has already decided to take time out of their day to watch your press conference, then chances are they’re already fully prepped for a reveal of games, not a dancing panda.
Apologies, We’re Having Some Minor Technical Difficulties
The beauty of pre-recording anything is the following: the power of editing, the ability to re-shoot something, and controllable variables. Over the last god knows how many years we’ve seen a litany of awkwardness, mishaps and things you simply can’t legislate for. Even the almighty Uncharted 4 suffered an embarrassing technical problem at E3 2015 as Nathan Drake’s avatar became catatonic.
With online presentations, you can cut out any potential mistakes and any faults that don’t cast your game in a great light. One false move in a live conference and you can rue your actions until he end of time. Surely even a basic acumen would identify that editing the production be as professional as can be is just common sense?
Companies Bottle Up Announcements
With E3 seen as the biggest gaming event of the year, it’s quite easy to save any mammoth announcements for the big show. Now yes, after two or three days of being bombarded with games, release dates and other such things, you’re left reeling and unable to compute all this exciting new information. On the flip side, this brief flurry of giddiness is temporary, and then normal life resumes.
Aside from leaks in the build-up top E3 and some lesser gaming events, the good stuff is generally confined to this small window of E3. Wouldn’t it be nicer if we got the BIG announcements spread out periodically throughout the year? That way, there’s always new stuff to excited about. It also lessens the pressure on developers to have everything ready in time for E3. By having online broadcasts monthly, or even bi-monthly, we can look forward to earth-shattering announcements all-year round.
Sony Saw The Light
I still think to this day that Sony’s perspective of press conferences changed in 2016. They forewent the stereotypical, 2-hour brainmasher of a conference, and instead, chipped it down to about 80-90 minutes. There was VERY little talking and it was effectively a showreel of new games and gameplay. It was sensational. I remember it absolutely flew by and I was left in awe of it. 2017 was more of a mixed bag as Shuhei Yoshida even admitted that Sony “held back on E3 2017 announcements“. 2018 seemed to be more of a cameo if anything.
Microsoft have generally not offered a lot during this generation of E3 and by E3 2016, Nintendo hadn’t even announced the Nintendo Switch yet. Sony opted to skip E3 2019 altogether, and it was no surprise when we heard that “Sony is skipping E3 2020” as well. The universally received 2016 format was effectively what ‘Nintendo Direct’ and ‘State of Play’ have demonstrated: little chatter, it’s the games that matter.
Despite not doing one for 2019, their own exclusive show that they run, “The Playstation Experience”, means that there really isn’t any need for Sony to attend E3 in any capacity from now on. Sony’s success has generally meant that they dictate how they conduct their business. They’ve enjoyed 7 immensely successful years in this generation, and momentum is all on their side. More State of Play will be more than sufficient for game reveals and the internet will still be equally buzzing.
Or if you want to have some fun… Devolver Digital, ladies and gentlemen. They are the creators of some truly stellar games like Hotline Miami 1 + 2, Enter The Gungeon, My Friend Pedro, and more. They have been one of the stand-out, unsung highlights of the last few E3 shows. Still clocking in at around the 20-minute mark with their broadcast, Devolver manage to announce multiple games, whilst developing their long-running plot of Nina Struther’s descent into death and insanity. It’s indescribably hilarious and dark. It fits the Devolver ethos and it makes unveiling games fun. Who’d have thought it? Foregoing jargon in favor of showing off the main reason you’re doing this.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to start creating adult-orientated mini-films of gore and incredulousness – they should – but it’s another example of how you can utilize the format, get your messages across, and provide the consumer with a good time.
Since 1995, E3 has received persistent adulation and is a celebrated and decorated gaming event like no other. It’s the one constant in the gaming calendar that provides thrills, spills, and Jill’s… sandwich. But like everything, it feels like we’ve moved past E3 being the be-all and end-all of everything. Digital presentations have so many benefits to doing them that it doesn’t make sense not to. The ease, the cost, and a myriad of other finer details.
Now, do I honestly believe for one second that E3 is dead and will never return? Of course not. I’m not stupid. BUT, maybe it can comeback without all the bells and whistles? With less fanfare than a Final Fantasy VII victory dance maybe? The same way Gamescom and Tokyo Games Show are big events, but emphasize games. There’s no need to stockpile ammunition to unload into one show. But I’m sure the world will disagree.
See you at E3 2021, folks!