It’s weird to think about it isn’t it? Had this year not been just a catastrophic mess from top to bottom, we would have already experienced what was gearing up to be the potentially weirdest E3 in history. Instead the world broke and we’ve been experiencing a steady stream of announcements that have sprung from various events that are too vast in number to keep track of anymore. I guess in a weird way I miss E3, but I’m also pretty ambivalent about its return.
There’s something to be said about the spectacle and brevity that comes with what once was the focal point of the video games industry. It was a singular event that all of the gaming populace could look to for the biggest and most exciting announcements of the year. Considering we’re in a console release year, the E3 we could have had would have certainly been colossal. As hokey as it sounds, people aren’t wrong when they call E3 video game Christmas. During the course of one day we’d be inundated with massive reveals that would range from genuinely exciting to downright confusing, and I guess I miss that aspect most about the conference. It was a pain in the ass to cover those conferences, but it was extremely rewarding too.
I’m not entirely confident that we’ll have an E3 next year either. Without question the ESA, the folks behind E3, are going to do something to try to reclaim their ever-dwindling throne, but I don’t think we’ll ever see E3 be as big or impactful as it once was. Going to E3 as a game maker or publisher is a tremendously expensive proposition that doesn’t even guarantee any real success in the future. Many people I’ve talked to just assume that the press conferences that come before the actual event of E3, are the entirety of the conference itself. Meanwhile there are people, myself included, who only really pay attention to the press conferences and pick up what else they can from articles and videos later, which probably sucks to hear if you weren’t featured at a press conference that year.
Right now we’re literally in the thick of a deluge of digital events and announcements, but I’ve never gotten the feeling that one is being immediately drowned out by another. With the entire summer serving as the “E3 window” instead of the week or so it normally occupies, these announcements don’t get buried mere hours after they get on stage. I’ve had time to process my feelings about how the PS5 looks, or how excited I am for Paper Mario: The Origami King without feeling like I’m forgetting something. This allows announcements to breathe and exist for a while before immediately being steamrolled by something else.
I still miss E3 despite it being woefully unnecessary nor beneficial to anyone that isn’t a massive game company like Microsoft or Sony. I miss the bombast that came with knowing that this would be the place where the “big guns” would come out. But what E3 traded on for so long was its reputation and stalwart position in the industry, something that its squandered by continually proving how poorly run it actually was. I don’t know that we necessarily need something to fill E3’s shoes considering E3 was going through an identity and relevancy crisis, trying to poise itself as both a press, business and consumer event all in one. I think conferences like Gamescom, PAX and TGS all fill that E3 void well enough that we don’t need E3 to rise from the ashes like some miserable marketing phoenix.
I think this summer has been a test run for what will be the new standard in the industry. Companies will continue to elect to not waste money at superfluous conferences when they can just make an hour long video of trailers and press play on a random Tuesday in June. They control their own message this way, and don’t have to worry about the next press conference that goes live in two hours to completely overshadow them. I like E3, but I think I’m okay if we never see it put on again.