Opinion: E3 2015 continued trend toward rendering itself irrelevant

With most of the biggest announcements available only as trailers and guided playthroughs, E3 2015 raises the question: what's the point of attending in person?

17

Before E3 2015, I predicted that companies would increasingly follow in Nintendo's footsteps by making their presentations ever more public-facing, with lessening concern for journalists as they can take their message directly to those at home. Now, I'm more convinced than ever. What I saw last week was a stark difference in perception between those in attendance and those watching at home--one that illustrates the transition to a more public oriented show.

The most obvious distinction was in how audiences perceived the the various announcements. The wide consensus from the home audience seems to be that this E3 was the biggest in years, packed to the gills with big, exciting reveals. To an extent, all of that is true. Fallout 4, the return of The Last Guardian, and the Final Fantasy VII remake are all making good on long-held gamer wishlists. Having so many wishlist items come true in one year is striking, no doubt about that.

Anecdotally, though, I spoke to several attendees and even exhibitors who said they felt the tone was a little more subdued this year, and I couldn't shake that feeling myself. What could account for the disparity? I don't think I happened to meet a lot of jaded people. More likely, it's the fact that the announcements were just that. 

Thomas Bidaux at Gamasutra performed a media analysis today that confirmed my suspicions. Of the ten games that generated the most buzz, only two--Star Wars Battlefront and Halo 5: Guardians--were actually playable on the show floor. (Others may have been playable for judging purposes, but that's neither here nor there.) In short, we saw a lot of exciting promises, but the so-called boots on the ground didn't get to experience hardly any of them.

For journalists accostumed to E3 being a veritible playground of upcoming games, it's only natural there was some feeling that this year's show was quieter. We certainly got hands-on with plenty of games, but the biggest were largely off-limits or too far away to even expect a playable demo. Those watching from home wouldn't notice any such disparity, because announcements are announcements. Viewers are limited to trailers and sizzle reels every year, so whether 100% or 20% of the biggest games were playable, it's all the same.

And since it's all the same, this year proved that publishers can get plenty of press without a playable build based purely on the strength of trailers and guided walkthroughs. Why invite the press to play (and potentially criticize) your game when you can get just as much attention by putting together a trailer? If viewers demand to see the game in action, no problem. Just offer video streams that allow your own internal developers to play the game while being interviewed by your own in-house blog team, often composed of former journalists.

We're in the midst of seeing E3 transition to a more public showcase. As the medium gains more mainstream attention and video streaming propagates so readily, it makes perfect sense to cater announcements more towards the hundreds of thousands watching at home instead of the fraction of that number who actually attends in-person. If this trend continues, the Los Angeles spectacle of E3 may become less and less important, until a physical space is no longer necessary.

Editor-In-Chief

From The Chatty

  • reply
    June 24, 2015 12:45 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Opinion: E3 2015 continued trend toward rendering itself irrelevant

    • reply
      June 24, 2015 12:57 PM

      I hope I don't offend anybody by saying this...but to me, the news coverage of E3 is odd. The conference happens, then I see articles about the games shown in the conference. The articles don't give additional detail, they just tell you what you can see on YouTube. I guess a question is, how much 'traffic' do such articles get?
      I'd be more interested in the articles if they came out later, after a reporter(?) played the game- like I was reading a hands on preview of the game. But just saying 'Sony announced FFVII remake, The end.' is ok, but nothing I need to read.

      • reply
        June 24, 2015 1:01 PM

        We normally do it both ways. In many cases, people can't see the conferences live, since they have to work or go to school or what have you. So the news pieces are for people to get a quick recap. You'd be surprised, but they do pull in good traffic.

        And yes, the more hands-on impressions come during and after the show is over. That means we'll often double dip. Example: We covered the announcement of Horizon Zero Dawn, but when we got more information during the show itself, we also posted a second piece with more information.

        • reply
          June 24, 2015 1:30 PM

          Right. I watch the conferences, but if I didn't have time I'd kind of resent having to watch a 2 hour YouTube video just to see the one news blurb I care about.

          Maybe I'm just old and crotchety but I get annoyed when a headline that's obviously for a tiny news blurb grabs my interest, and then I click only to find a 5 minute video with a 30 second ad pre-roll. I could read the news in 10 seconds if they'd just give it to me in text! I usually don't even bother watching at that point.

          • reply
            June 25, 2015 12:12 PM

            Wish I'd remembered to reply sooner- I didn't explain myself well, and I'm sorry. I understand what you and OzzieMejia are saying. People can't always watch the whole conference as it happens, and some don't want to watch it- here's where I was going: Article: "Sony E3 Press Conference 2015" The entire video is there for me to see if I wish-beneath it, there are time stamps that say '@ 29:15 Final Fantasy VII Remake announced!!!', maybe with added detail for those who prefer to read. I can click the time stamp and watch that portion if I wish, or I could just read the lines that tell me what happened.

            As an obsessive organizer, I'm always looking for ways to condense things into a smaller space for the sake of, more space. So yeah, why post 30 articles when you can just create one and add to it?

        • reply
          June 24, 2015 1:41 PM

          In the case of the PC conference you try to purge it from memory.

          • reply
            June 24, 2015 2:13 PM

            I actually nodded off several times during that show. It was terrible.

            • reply
              June 24, 2015 2:24 PM

              I'm not even sure why I bothered watching all of it. It might have been better with a better host but on the whole it was bad.

              • reply
                June 25, 2015 5:53 AM

                I felt the host wasn't that bad. He was able to interact with both the guests and audience quite well. It was just the material he had to work with that was terrible.

                Seriously - I could hear the groans of PC gamers around the world when they realized those AMD segments were commercials.

      • reply
        June 24, 2015 2:06 PM

        Keep in mind that these things being live streamed so everyone can see them is still kind of new (last 2 or 3 years I want to say) so coverage is still adjusting.

      • reply
        June 24, 2015 2:18 PM

        A 'rundown' for people who don't want to watch the conference is usually what would interest me.

        • reply
          June 24, 2015 2:20 PM

          In conference I don't mean e3 in the entirety but maybe a certain companies presentation

          • reply
            June 24, 2015 2:37 PM

            I'd like a 5 minute "Publisher's presentation condensed" with the most relevant images/video shown. e3 needs a nightly news cast.

    • reply
      June 24, 2015 1:44 PM

      Well this makes me sad for the attendees of E3. I always thought that that point of E3 was for the press to play the games, get a feel for them, then report their thoughts/reviews/etc.

      • reply
        June 24, 2015 1:52 PM

        It used to be. Then it went into crazy mode, much like it is today where the spectacle of E3 overshadowed what was shown at e3. Then it came back with specific rules about what presenters could show and how. Like no booth babes was a rule.

        And then about 5 years ago, the media said it was boring and the organizers brought booth babes back. Now we are full circle to how it was 7-8 years ago where it's just a spectacle again and irrelevant.

        • reply
          June 24, 2015 1:55 PM

          E3 was once about developers coming together and showing off what they have came up with. A gathering of technology which help spur innovation and thought. Now days it is more about marketing and press coverage.

          • reply
            June 24, 2015 1:57 PM

            The main floor has always been for the press. There is a side conference that is for developers and that is largely unchanged.

            My opinion above isn't really fact or anything, just my personal opinion from having gone every year from 2000 to 2013.

          • reply
            June 24, 2015 2:24 PM

            What you're describing sounds more like GDC these days.

    • reply
      June 24, 2015 1:51 PM

      Pete Heinz of Bethesda had some similar observations about the importance of streams and such: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/e3/11695236/Bethesdas-Pete-Hines-Another-publisher-would-be-spitting-out-Skyrim-2-a-year-later.html

      He's not saying E3 is dying, but the number of people reachable by streaming events is undeniable.

    • reply
      June 24, 2015 2:23 PM

      "In short, we saw a lot of exciting promises, but the so-called boots on the ground didn't get to experience hardly any of them."

      E3 was so much smoke and mirrors this year. The biggest hype was for games that would be out in 2016, 2017, or later, and none of them were playable this year. That's pretty standard for E3 but it does make for this huge disparity in perception with the home audience. I guess its because people not at E3 wouldn't be able to play the games on the floor anyway, so any hype is pretty much the same.

      Now everyone waits.

      • reply
        June 24, 2015 2:40 PM

        We might have paid attention to different games during E3 but all the titles I wanted to play after seeing them showcased come out this November.

        • reply
          June 24, 2015 3:01 PM

          Rise Of The Tomb Raider was it for me. Microsoft did a much better job than Sony showing games that were actually coming out soon. Sony had the most hype of the show but all of it is coming out 2016 and later.

          • reply
            June 24, 2015 3:06 PM

            Yeah, Fallout 4, Battlefront, and XCOM2 were enough to overload me. Those alone kinda made me think I'll pay closer attention to E3 next year.

            • reply
              June 24, 2015 3:38 PM

              I forgot about XCom! Yes, I'm excited for that too.

              I respect Fallout 4 and know it will be great. Longass RPGs just aren't for me and I'll probably pass on it, but it clearly deserves whatever hype it gets. I played Battlefront at the show and dislike BF4, so my opinion of that game isn't super high.

              Either way, a lot of the E3 hype this year was for games that weren't playable and won't be available until 2016 or later. Sony had incredible hype but none of the exclusives they showed are anywhere close to release. I think that's the issue here.

              I'm really looking forward to Tomb Raider 2 and XCom 2 though, both will be great I'm sure

    • reply
      June 24, 2015 2:33 PM

      Even playing the games isn't all e3 attendies only, what with Nintendo having 9 e3 demos available on the Wii U this year.

    • reply
      June 24, 2015 2:37 PM

      I think I watched more content from E3 2015 than any other before it. There were lots of Twitch livestreams or archives.

      I watch the PC show and Bethseda's shows in their entirety live. Watched part of the EA show. Didn't watch MS, Sony because I don't really console anymore, but caught some reporting or clips of it.

    • reply
      June 25, 2015 10:36 AM

      I think the problem is that E3 was created prior to the internet becoming so ubiquitous. Back then these conventions were needed to let the public know what was coming - we even had to wait for the information to show up in an honest-to-god paper magazine!

      Now the public can get the entirety of the show online. A person need only use Twitch or You Tube (they don't even have to be aware of gaming sites) to see the whole shebang.

      I do wish there were more hands-on previews. I already know the company is going to say it's game is the best thing ever. Maybe you journalists can help push for change in E3. Since we don't really need it anymore for reveals & trailers, maybe it could become more of a hands-on venue to highlight upcoming releases.