The past decade or so has been rough for the former gaming behemoth: the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3. The managing organization, the ESA, has been a powder keg of chaos and general incompetence. The COVID-19 pandemic, or more specifically the lockdowns, created massive problems for the already struggling event. ReedPop jumped in to help try to right the ship, but this week, the company said it was ending its relationship with E3 and the ESA was on its own going forward.
ReedPop and the sinking E3 ship
14 months ago, ReedPop, current owners of PAX and Florida SuperCon, joined the ESA to help produce E3 2023. This was a big deal - a company with a history of successful events was going to manage future E3s. Maybe this was the key to the return of a successful and useful E3 event. Well, not exactly. Leading up to this year's event, E3 2023, it was announced that the event was canceled, throwing the future of the event into question.
That question was likely answered this week when ReedPop announced that it was ending its relationship with the ESA and would not be involved in future E3 events. In fairness, they technically had never been involved in an E3 event, as the only one in they were in charge of was canceled. Speaking of cancelations, the ESA has announced that E3 2024 has also been canceled. They have informed the LA Convention Center that they will not be using the space once again.
This likely indicates the end of the E3 event, but how did we get here?
The good days of E3
In the early days of the event, it was a massive success. It was really the only major event in the industry and the ESA was riding high. They had a huge facility to hold the event in - the LA Convention Center - and they intended to fill it.
Every major platform, developer, and publisher was there to show off what the next year or so of the industry would look like. Major companies would hold massive press conferences, so big they had to be held in alternate locations. At these conferences, the major platforms would show off games and announce new hardware. For example, we were introduced to the Wii, the Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4 during E3 pressers.
Inside, companies had booths showing off their intellectual properties. Some games had videos running on big screens. Other games had interactive demos that attendees could experience. For investors and publishers, it was an opportunity to find games that could be a big financial success for them. For journalists, it was a way to get hands-on time to write articles, publish videos, and conduct interviews.
The bad days of E3
With time, they allowed more and more people with fewer and fewer credentials into the supposedly industry-only event. Seemingly, all you needed was a page on Tripod with the word "video games" and you could get credentialed for the event. This meant long lines for industry professionals and a decreasing value for the event. At the same time, CES began including gaming companies and content, stealing a little of their thunder.
Then came the overcorrection. The event announced that it was going to rigidly enforce its credentialing process, making it exclusively an industry event again. But, what this meant was that legitimate publications weren't able to get in because they only existed online. But, online was where their fans were, not reading printed magazines. So, publications, such as ourselves, began to boycott E3 entirely, knowing that the end was inevitable.
Plus, there were far more interesting events with more chance to get great content. The major companies began to notice the problems, too, moving to these other events, or holding events of their own. The internet became the place to be, despite E3's insistence to the contrary.
Then came COVID. Everything shut down, including trade events. For some events, such as CES, it was made clear just how important it was to be together in person. However, for E3, we learned that the event was not particularly useful. In fact, online press events and digital distribution of game demos meant that everyone, including journalists, publishers, and gamers, could get a better experience sitting in their living room or offices.