Our own Ozzie Mejia recently attended Sony's PlayStation Experience weekend and was impressed by the convention's debut. So much so that it got him thinking that if individual console makers and publishers can replicate the E3 atmosphere themselves, does that mean the potential end for E3? Steven Wong disagrees, noting that E3 serves a unique purpose that can't be fulfilled by other conventions. These two writers will now debate their points.
Point: PlayStation Experience potentially points to a future without E3. (by Ozzie Mejia)
The morning started off with a packed convention hall. There was barely any elbow room, with tight security ensuring that entrances were closely monitored. The temperature was rising from the hundreds of bodies filling the room, all clamoring for the first big announcement. Then the crowd erupted when the first montage hit the theater screen to let everyone that the fun had just started.
The above could be used to describe the typical E3, but this was actually what happened at this past weekend's PlayStation Experience. Nobody expected an E3 atmosphere -- not myself, not the rest of the staff, and not even Sony representatives themselves. What was expected to be a small, dedicated crowd of PlayStation enthusiasts turned into a sea of humanity, all clamoring for the next major reveal.
That got me thinking about the E3 atmosphere, in general. The weekend replicated, if not outright exceeded, that climate. The difference was that this wasn't hundreds of members of press from around the world, but it was also thousands of fans making the pilgrimage to Las Vegas. If Sony could communicate their message directly to the fanbase in the manner that they did over the weekend, why wouldn't other major console manufacturers or game publishers do the same? And if that's the case, is there a need for E3 at all?
Take a look at everything that was laid out to make this weekend happen. Sony went to great expense to rent out The Sands Convention Center Expo for their two-day event, but they also charged roughly $55 a head for each of the two days. Sony not only got their early 2015 lineup out in the open for everyone to see, but they also made a killing off the gate. That kind of twofold goal is something that they could never accomplish with an event like E3.
Sony was also able to make ample room for anybody that was willing to attend their event. They brought their entire AAA library with them, but also made ample room for indie developers and virtual reality displays, with none of them feeling out of place. That's because Sony wasn't just hoping to sell a few more consoles. They were actively communicating to their core base, the people that already own PlayStation products.
If E3 is a showcase for why people should buy hardware, an event like PlayStation Experience is a forum for why people should buy games. Sony representatives that I spoke to throughout the weekend were candid about the reduced pressure of the PSX weekend, because they knew they were talking to PlayStation fans. They felt an added sense of freedom, one that allowed them to bring out indie games, lesser known properties, and additional games for their handheld Vita. There was no pressure to sell them a PS4 or a Vita, because those attendees likely already had one. That's not a direction they would have felt compelled to go with at E3, because there's a sense that E3 has to be for the "really big" stuff -- the type of stuff that sells hardware and moves units.
If PlayStation Experience is such a reduced pressure environment that accomplishes the same goals in December that it does in June, then why necessarily bother with June? If Microsoft and Nintendo both held dedicated conventions that allowed them to show off their library directly to their fans, let the games sell the hardware, and get a cut of the gate profit, then what purpose would E3 serve? It's one thing to hold bombastic events dedicated to the gaming press, but this route looks to be just as effective and far more fan-friendly.
Various developers and representatives that I spoke to over the weekend saw PlayStation Experience as the first of many for Sony. After walking among the fanbase myself, I'd like to argue that this may be the beginning of an interesting future -- one that doesn't necessarily include E3.
Counterpoint: Even with PlayStation Experience, the gaming world still needs E3 (by Steven Wong)
While E3 has had more than its fair share of problems, I still think it plays an important role in the gaming industry. Its mood has certainly shifted with its increased exclusivity for journalists, which leads to smaller crowds, and less uproar over announcements compared to an audience full of devout fans. However, this highlights why E3 is important. Events like the PlayStation Experience exist for fans to celebrate a specific platform, not necessarily gaming as a whole. People flew to Las Vegas to show their support for PlayStation, while E3 attendees are there for news, announcements, and hands-on opportunities for all games regardless of platform.
As impressive as events like PlayStation Experience might be, it still remains a homogenous one. You're surrounded by people who have already bought into the PlayStation. Meanwhile, E3 provides an opportunity to win over new fans. Its diverse lineup of games offers a chance for comparison. Let's not forget how the PS4 reveal completely stole the show by taking advantage of all the negative reactions the Xbox One announcement got. The same goes for upcoming games. You can only compare exclusive games like Halo: The Master Chief Collection against PS4 exclusives at E3. Not only that, but you can sometimes see how games will look across different platforms, like when Ubisoft revealed gameplay from Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed Unity. But let's not limit ourselves to Microsoft and Sony, when some of the hottest hardware at this year's E3 included the Oculus Rift and a first look at the Alienware Alpha.
It's also important to note the importance of having so many games and experiences under one roof. There's no other convention where you have the opportunity to try out both the Morpheus and Oculus Rift to compare them, which is why E3 maintains its international appeal. Instead of having to travel to several fan events, journalists can go to one central one, and disseminate the information to eager fans. Although there some great announcements at the PlayStation Experience, fans in attendance were generally there for enjoyment. Journalists attend conventions to share information with everyone that couldn't come.
Sony is hardly the first company to have a fan-based expo. Blizzard has a very strong following, but Blizzcon attendance has its ups and down according to what games are on the horizon. There have been years when Blizzard ended up losing money on the event, so it'll be interesting to see what PSX attendance levels look like from year to year. A convention based on a specific developer, even one as well-regarded as Blizzard, is pretty much as homogenous as it gets, and you wouldn't necessarily go to Blizzcon to see how Heroes of the Storm stacks up against League of Legends.
Even if both Microsoft and Nintendo decide to set up their own fan conventions, E3 would still be the event to go to due to its wider range of games, developers, and hardware - all in one place. As overwhelmingly successful as the PlayStation Experience was, it probably poses little threat to broader gamer conventions like PAX, so I don't think E3 has much to worry about. One isn't necessarily better than the other, and there's no reason why they can't co-exist.
Where do you fall on this debate? Are fan-centered, more singularly-focused conventions the way the future is headed? Or does E3 still serve a greater purpose, necessitating that both of these cons co-exist? Leave your impressions in Chatty and give us your thoughts.
Shack Staff posted a new article, Point/Counterpoint: What does PlayStation Experience mean for E3?
Sony most likely won't make a profit off this event. The price was enough to only get those interested enough to pay to go and if they charge too much not enough will go. In addition, the costs of event space, staffing, security, insurance, marketing, and so on are not cheap. E3 generally breaks even and those events are designed to be purely for marketing for the participants.
The Playstation Experience: Push X to make Drake make some lame quip. The Nintendo Experience: Push A to jump, slash, and smash!