E3 2017 opens to the public, but it needs to go all in
When I first started writing about gaming nearly a decade ago, one of my greatest ambitions was to go to E3. I had, of course, heard all about it, but hearing about it and going are two wildly different things.
It was a video game mecca, a look behind the curtain and simultaneously a look at the future. For all my professional trappings, I was still just a fan of gaming at an event dedicated to it. There was a bit of professional validation involved as well, but that all went away the first time I sat in an auditorium, seeing the games and hardware that fans like me would be obsessing over for years to come.
This year at E3 2017, the public is going to get a chance to experience that for themselves. GameSpot confirmed that E3’s organizer, the Electronic Software Association will sell 15,000 tickets to the public, each costing $250 (The first 1,000 tickets will sell for $150).
Those tickets will include access to the show floor for all three days, Tuesday, June 13 through Thursday, June 15, and more events for ticket holders will be announced in the coming weeks. Tickets go on sale Monday, February 13.
while it might lead to some logistical problems as the event tries to accommodate thousands more in an already crowded setting, it’s a good move and probably time.
For years now, people have been questioning how relevant E3 is anymore as a press event. Activision and Electronic Arts have both taken a step back, while Nintendo’s presence is a fraction of what it once was. Others are also opting out of the show in favor of smaller events and other forms of promotion.
E3 is officially a press and industry event, where the publishers and developers come together to give advanced looks to what they have coming in the future. The press covers the games, the fans read about them. At least, that’s how it has been. Recently though, there’s been much less emphasis on debuting products at the show. Companies like Activision host their own events while others like Ubisoft – which does maintain a significant E3 presence – are increasingly relying on private press events and things like closed betas to get the word out.
Nintendo is a prime example of this shift. To debut the Switch, it hosted an event and streamed it online. It didn’t need a tradeshow, it just need a platform.
That should help to confirm that E3 is no longer essential as a press event. Instead, it should become an event for the public.
The reality of E3 is quite a bit different than most think. The show opens unofficially on Monday with a series of presentations for press and industry insiders. The expo hall doors open the next day, and most members of the press zip from appointment to appointment, bypassing the lines of people that are part of the gaming industry but don’t have a scheduled meeting.
For the press, it’s a quick look at the game, possibly a short movie, occasionally a quick go at a demo, then on to either write up the experience or to take another meeting. From the outside looking in, it’s a great experience and it absolutely can be. For the fans in line, however, it can be frustrating hours of waiting for a few minutes with a game, made even more annoying as people with press badges skip right to the front of the lines.
If the ESA really intends to make this a public event and not just a cash grab to fill the convention center, it will need the encourage a complete shift in strategy from organizers and publishers. And it should. E3 has the clout and name recognition to reshape itself into a true celebration of the gaming industry.
The booths, which are generally set up with a front facing area hiding a closed room or rooms, should be all for fans. If it is going to work, it will need to be more like PAX with booths designed to funnel as many people through as possible. That’s easier said than done though.
E3 has served its purpose as a press event. Each year there is less original content to come out of the private sessions, and more and more publishers and developers are staying home. It’s not a cheap show for them, and the press coverage is unpredictable and often muted by a few announcements that dwarf the rest. The Monday event is just as important as it has been, if not more so, but those are all streamed online. The ESA may as well do away with the press portion altogether and turn it into a week that honors the industry.
E3 is ripe for change. And it could become something really amazing.