The Direct Approach

Iwata E3 2013

In 2010, Konami had a rather awkward and low-budget E3 press conference. The presenters did their best to communicate new ideas and features, but it was tough to break through the obstacles of thick accents, awkward skits, and a crowd that just didn't seem to want to be there.

So in 2011, Konami began to stream their conferences online. Instead of having to rent a physical space, pay for plane and hotel tickets, spend time working on skits and hoping all the demonstrations functioned properly, they could now control the message. Well rehearsed, well edited and well translated, the streamed presentation carefully captured footage without the additional costs of a dog-and-pony show at E3. They've continued with these streamed conferences each year since.

Due to backlash from studios and publishers claiming the event was simply too expensive, E3 downsized in 2006 to a much smaller event from years previous; however, this downsizing was reversed. In 2009, E3 returned to its colorful, spectacular glory. The event continues to be expensive and cluttered with analysis from every press outlet, web forum and twitter account about who “won,” who “lost,” and who was most disappointing. In the afterglow of the big shows, there’s not often much public attention paid to the cost-benefit analyses of the presentations. Perhaps there should be.

While Konami could not completely avoid the dog-and-pony competition by switching to streaming, they've at least avoided being turned into Internet memes and unflattering YouTube mash-ups.

This year, both Nintendo and Square-Enix also skipped E3 presentations in favor of streaming content. Capcom continued to stream gameplay of upcoming games, a community-focused endeavor that has been going on for several other events, such as PAX Prime.

I am not going to claim the bell tolls for E3. However, it is becoming clear that E3 itself is losing more and more of its purpose for publishers. When the event started in 1996, the only way consumers could get news of it was through monthly gaming magazines. The industry was smaller, with fewer press and fewer developers seeking the limelight. Studios were made up of fewer people. There was also more time to control the message, as any information from the event wouldn't be hitting newsstands until July or August.

Things are different now. News sites are pumping out new information for games on the hour every hour. There are thousands of game journalists and journalist wannabes cycling the same information through social media networks. Publishers and studios are fostering communities.

When they downsized E3 in 2006, streaming content was not yet popular. UStream and Justin.tv weren't founded until 2007, and Twitch.tv, a gamer-centric subsidiary of Justin.tv, not until 2011. In these few short years since E3 first down-sized and regrew, the quantity and quality of companies and personalities streaming content on the Internet have exploded.

E3's downsizing was inevitable — it just occurred too early. No one was ready to let it go. The press doesn’t need to mediate between studios and consumers — at least not as much as it used to. Konami, Nintendo and Square-Enix have already switched to presenting their content in a rehearsed, clean, efficient manner at a lower cost than renting out a massive space in L.A. in a desperate hope to impress a group of tired, distracted, weary journalists. As time progresses, more and more studios are going to start cutting out the middleman and streaming directly to their audiences as well, particularly where language and distance make on-site presence cost more in both effort and cash.

This is nothing to say of indie developers finding their home at events like PAX East or PAX Prime, either. While many smaller studios likely can't even afford a closet at E3, let alone lay claim to the little time journalists have available, they are finding plenty of potential customers and even fans at more public-oriented conventions. Word of mouth spreads, enthusiasts discover new games that would have otherwise flown under their radar, and devs get to communicate a clear, passionate message.

I do not believe E3 will die. That's about as bootless as proclaiming that PC gaming or handhelds are dead. The big-budget presentations put on by companies like Microsoft and Sony aren't going anywhere, either. There's still a purpose to these events, and there remains some sense of excitement even amongst the cynical. Otherwise, why would we all follow along? Being snarky on Twitter isn't quite worth that much of a time investment.

Yet I do believe the event will become less important, for consumers, for press, and for the studios putting the show on. Smaller studios will eventually abandon it, more companies will insist on streaming information, and fans will count the days to the next PAX, Gamescom or Tokyo Game Show. Maybe one day E3 will even open to the public in an effort to maintain a sense of importance, or it may retreat back into its roots of courting commercial distributors.

But one day it will be a shadow of its former self, and we'll be left wondering why we cared so much at all about one week in June.

Comments

Even though press conferences such as those at E3 might be gone in the next few years , it still somehow makes me sad that it is coming to an end. I havent attended one before but it seems like quite the event. It seems like everything is changing so hugely and it makes me sad and without a doubt nostalgic.

I'm still in a way clinging to the past eras of gaming only to realise the current era will be ending soon. It's all just happening so fast.

I like to think of things as "not worse, not better, just different". Nintendo streams their Direct events quite frequently, meaning you get that E3 style excitement more often in the year. I would definitely like to see more studios streaming stuff as well, as it's easy to have your game get lost in the shuffle amidst all the press conference drama. If all the publishers big and small, such as Atlus, Xseed, 2K, and Activision, joined in with the likes of Nintendo, Konami, Capcom and Square, I'd be a happy monkey.

I'm also hoping events like PAX Prime and East will pave the way for more gaming expos to expand in size. I got to play a couple cool indies at TooManyGames here in the Philly area, but it was still sadly vacant in terms of game studios and support (and considering it was the weekend immediately following E3, it is no surprise why). The ability for the public to go out and try games out is a really, really nice thing to have when it was impossible ten years ago.

I don't see Microsoft and Sony ditching the flashy presentations so soon, and I don't see E3 going away entirely, but I do think it will begin to get smaller each following year. I believe this year was the highest since its downsizing in terms of attendance, but there were also two new consoles being shown off. If the attendance next year decreases once again, I wouldn't be surprised.

As far as I'm concerned, without Kentia Hall E3 is already a dessicated husk.

I watched Sony's event this year with a group of friends on mumble... It was the most entertaining way to experience it that I have had. I would love if in the future my favorite game reviewers would comment on the event as it happening. It'd be great if I could mute them specifically when I wanted to listen to something and then go back and hear it too... maybe even like a rifftrax.

We are almost to that point if not already there. This is how I want all of my gaming announcement content. Someone will start doing it soon.

As far as I'm concerned, without Suikoden II on PS Vita, Konami is already a dessicated husk

manta173 wrote:

I would love if in the future my favorite game reviewers would comment on the event as it happening. It'd be great if I could mute them specifically when I wanted to listen to something and then go back and hear it too... maybe even like a rifftrax.

We are almost to that point if not already there. This is how I want all of my gaming announcement content. Someone will start doing it soon.

If I recall, Polygon and GiantBomb did this? I remember people mentioning there were variations of those streams on those sites with and without commentary.

I thought of maybe grabbing my Podcast crew together to do such a thing, but decided against it. I don't have enough experience putting such a thing together, but maybe we'll try it another year.

Wasn't E3 meant as a trade show to begin with? To show all those hot goodies to the companies, so they would know how much space they had to clear for the next big thing, like Duke Nukem Forever or something

Plastefuchs wrote:

Wasn't E3 meant as a trade show to begin with? To show all those hot goodies to the companies, so they would know how much space they had to clear for the next big thing, like Duke Nukem Forever or something

Back when the distribution model depended on retailers and magazines informing customers.

wordsmythe wrote:
Plastefuchs wrote:

Wasn't E3 meant as a trade show to begin with? To show all those hot goodies to the companies, so they would know how much space they had to clear for the next big thing, like Duke Nukem Forever or something

Back when the distribution model depended on retailers and magazines informing customers.

It was also much smaller when it first began, or so I'm assuming. I wasn't there, and was too young to be there anyway. It is possible that E3 could downsize back to that, where it has more relevance to retailers than press and consumers.

But considering the nature of the Internet and how that has changed business, even, I somehow doubt that. I imagine when E3 first started and there was a lack of Internet, getting all those companies, retailers, and magazines under one roof was really, really convenient.

ccesarano wrote:

I imagine when E3 first started and there was a lack of Internet, getting all those companies, retailers, and magazines under one roof was really, really convenient.

There probably still is some efficiency and extra visibility in having big events like E3 getting everyone together. The alternatives would be getting everyone to do their own little show and tell, or expand what they do at the consumer based conventions like PAX, Gamecom or Tokyo, which may at least partially conflict with what they're about.

wordsmythe wrote:
Plastefuchs wrote:

Wasn't E3 meant as a trade show to begin with? To show all those hot goodies to the companies, so they would know how much space they had to clear for the next big thing, like Duke Nukem Forever or something

Back when the distribution model depended on retailers and magazines informing customers.

People who know they like video games are informed through the plethora of free game information on gaming websites.

People who don't think about gaming as actively tend not to seek out the gaming information that is out there. For them, E3 is possibly the only event big enough to make an appearance in the main stream media these less enthused gamers get there information from. What I saw this year was that the press conferences got a lot more main stream press coverage than the booths or Nintendo Direct videos. These less enthused gamers became part of the expanded user base of the Wii. Did the message this year get out to that audience for Nintendo?

The flip side is what happened to MS. Everyone got their message and hated it. So much so that they have changed their policies because of the outcry. How many people that hated the first message are going to miss the retraction?

PopEsc wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Plastefuchs wrote:

Wasn't E3 meant as a trade show to begin with? To show all those hot goodies to the companies, so they would know how much space they had to clear for the next big thing, like Duke Nukem Forever or something

Back when the distribution model depended on retailers and magazines informing customers.

People who know they like video games are informed through the plethora of free game information on gaming websites.

People who don't think about gaming as actively tend not to seek out the gaming information that is out there. For them, E3 is possibly the only event big enough to make an appearance in the main stream media these less enthused gamers get there information from.

People who aren't into games enough to read websites aren't likely to pay attention to E3, either. As someone who gets plenty of exposure to national news coverage, I can tell you that E3 didn't make a blip next to government leak/whistle-blowing, two major sports in playoffs, and a couple celebrity pregnancies.

I've never heard of E3 being mentioned anywhere but Spike TV, G4TV (which doesn't even exist anymore, I believe), and maybe the local news in L.A., just like Otakon usually gets a bit of a blip in Baltimore's local cable news. That's hardly mainstream to me.

E3 news appeared on the tech sections of CNN, news.yahoo, cnet, and news.google. Jimmy Fallon had a video game week which featured Ps4, Xbox One, but not anything from Wii U. I'm not saying it was a lead story, but it was out there.