E3 is permanently gone, alongside an era when the industry needed it - The UpStream

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E3 is permanently gone, alongside an era when the industry needed it

posted Sunday Dec 17, 2023 by Scott Ertz

For many years, we have said that E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, was on its last leg. The ESA, the organization that managed the event, has had issues understanding what the event is, who it is for, and why it had been a success. The pandemic hit the event hard, showing the industry that, without E3, there was nothing lost. Since the world began spinning again, the ESA has not figured out how to run another show. Now, they have announced that E3 is dead once and for all.

What was E3?

E3, short for Electronic Entertainment Expo, was an annual trade event for the video game industry organized and presented by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). It was held principally in Los Angeles from 1995 to 2019, with its final iteration held virtually in 2021. The event hosted developers, publishers, hardware manufacturers, and other industry professionals who used the occasion to introduce and advertise upcoming games, hardware, and merchandise to the press. At one point during its existence, E3 was the largest and most prestigious gaming expo of the year by importance and impact.

Over the years, the event's perception changed. Once the industry's most important event, it became a visceral appendage of a time gone by. The media changed - moving from traditional print and television to a large focus online. However, it took the ESA years to accept online media as a valid credentialing class. This was in response to their previous stance where if you had a page on GeoCities that had the word "videogame" you could get credentialed. It meant that a lot of valid videogame media couldn't get into the show and moved to other events.

But, if you could get in, getting an opportunity to play any of the games was still difficult. Lines were so long that you would waste an hour or more waiting in line for an opportunity to play 2 minutes of a demo of a game that wouldn't be out for 2 years. Plus, the experience you received from the demo wouldn't help your coverage of the event, so it wasn't worth it anyway.

During the pandemic, the Big 3 and the studios discovered that they could have their own individual digital events and release their demos on console and PC without having to travel anywhere. This gave everyone the opportunity to try the games, making gamers more excited about the upcoming titles. Plus, for the media, it was actually easier to cover the events sitting in their underwear at home than it was in LA.

Following the pandemic, the ESA never managed to get back off the ground. They even paired up with ReedPop, the owners and managers of events from PAX to Florida Supercon. If anyone was going to be able to rehabilitate the event, it would have been ReedPop, but even they abandoned ship before being able to bring an event back to life.

Is this the future of other events?

One of the questions being asked is whether or not this spells trouble for other big events, such as CES, which begins in just a few weeks. From my perspective, other events are not the same. CES, for example, is well run and managed, and willing and capable of shifting to changing industry needs. For example, CES embraced online media early, and has embraced online broadcasters, like ourselves, for over a decade.

So long as an event is capable of evolving to meet the needs of its industry, it has little fear of falling into the trap of E3 and the ESA.


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