UWG ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION: DO WE NEED E3?

Originally posted on UWG here. This week I wanted to post an interesting round table discussion we had over at UWG regarding the necessity of E3. Obviously my perspective was a little different from most, as I work in the games industry and attending conferences is a large part of my job, so hopefully I added something unique to the discussion. But I want to know, what do you guys think? Do you have aspirations to attend E3? As a consumer are you even excited by it anymore? Let me know! As mentioned, I’ll be writing on a related topic soon – what are trade shows actually like and should consumers try to attend them? 

With E3 done and over with, we at UWG decided now would be a good time to take a hard look at shows like E3 and ask a tough question:

“In the digital age we now reside in, are these big media shows like E3 really warranted anymore? If all the information we need is now easily consumable on the internet, what purpose do these shows serve anymore?”

Joining us in our discussion are Niall of Niall’s Ramblings, Derek ofGamerCrash, and Sam of CheeseToastie And Video Games. If you like what they have to say here, there’s much more where that came from at each of their sites! Do yourself a favor and take a look!

Jake: After thinking about it for a time I’d like to make the point that maybe the purpose of shows like E3 has evolved over the last 15 years or so. They’ve always been there to generate excitement for the games and hardware. They’ve always had the side-effect of bringing gamers together as a group, and I think the focus has been shifting to that side-effect rather than just the hype generation as it was in the past. Do we need these shows for this? I don’t think so, but I would say they do a lot to help.

Duck: I actually don’t know a whole lot about E3, but I agree that the main purpose such shows now serve is probably just to get people excited and to make a big deal about the new games.  We don’t need these shows for information anymore because we get most of that from the Internet, but the Internet can’t get us excited about new games quite like E3 can.  And I like Jacob’s point about E3’s ability to bring gamers together.  It makes me think of comicons, in a way.  Part of what I love about them is that it gathers tons of people with similar interests in one place.

Sam: As I handle business development for a video games studio and a large part of my job is going to trade shows like E3 and GDC, it probably won’t surprise you when I say that I do think shows like this are absolutely necessary  – at least for industry professionals. Over time E3 has become one of the industry’s biggest events of the year as it gives devs and publishers a space to build hype or make big announcements. I won’t lie – much as I enjoyed going to Sony and Ubisoft press conferences this year, I don’t think it was really necessary for me to fly all the way to LA to see them, when I just as easily could have received all that info sitting on my couch. However, I still think that E3 provides a necessary stage where small and big game companies alike can demo or show off games they’re working on and where eyeballs are guaranteed. Indie studios in particular would never be able to generate that kind of interest. Also, much as E3 has become a place for consumers to enjoy the news about the games they love, unlike PAX or Comic Con, E3 is still a trade show and is one of the few times a  year that industry peeps can get together to share info and for business-y people like me it’s where the real work is, where you can pitch games and make new contacts.

Niall: I’ve never been to E3, it’s always been something that i would love to do, and from a very young age it’s always been on my bucket list. The closest thing we have to it here in the UK is Eurogamer which i went to for the first time last year, it was fantastic. I had a rough idea of what sort of layout to expect from seeing the shows through the eyes of websites like IGN & Gamespot in the past, but it’s not just the sheer amount of games that made it such a fantastic experience, it was the atmosphere. It’s not very often that you get so many like minded people under one roof, and with the huge amount of queuing that you inevitably end up doing you have a chance to swap opinions, and just generally talk gaming. It’s also a rare opportunity to meet some of the faces behind the games, not only with the staff on their respective stands, but also with the talks done by people that are well known in the industry. Of course getting hands on with the new games and consoles is a big highlight, whether it be having the chance to play a game you’re really looking forward to, or discovering a game that wasn’t even on your radar, the sheer scale of the whole thing is mind blowing. The amount of games on show is incredible, the downside of this is that you can’t play them all, with the 2-3 hour queues for the big titles you really have to be quite frugal with your time, unless you’re lucky enough to be at the event for a few days that is.

The obvious problem with all of this is the money that it costs the industry to put on, when it is now so simple to reach millions of people through social media and Youtube, delivering gameplay, trailers and even betas to their doorstep, you have to ask, is a huge show like E3 really necessary, or at all cost effective? To a certain extent i think that depends on how good and how well known your game is, for example, Call Of Duty could not have a stand at Eurogamer or E3 and they’d still sell a huge amount of copies of their game, is having a stand at the shows adding many more sales? There’s no doubting that having a good conference and stand does help, you only have to look at something like Sunset Overdrive which i personally was unsure about, but since seeing it E3, i’m pretty excited for it. Personally i hope it continues, and i think 99% of gamers would probably hope so to, it’s great to see everything under one roof and be able to talk to the people behind the games, something that you rarely get the chance to do.

Cary: I’ve also never been to E3 or any gaming tradeshows, but I have been to tradeshows that have nothing to do with gaming, and they are lots of fun. It’s great to be able to get up close and personal with new things and converse with people about new designs and new ideas. So I get what Sam says about E3 being a vital part of the business and networking side of gaming. Shows like E3 help build hype and build and further cement audiences that can’t be captured virtually. They also serve as pretty good barometers of the industry’s health; the more exciting the better for everyone, gamers and developers.

From the “me as a consumer and player of video games” point of view, I don’t know that I feel the same way. Not to be a fly in the ointment, but over the past couple years, thanks to the way information leaks and the Internet, I haven’t been terribly excited to watch E3. I do because I know everyone will be talking about it, but with each year it seems that there’s less and less new stuff to discuss. Game companies are shelling out big bucks to tell us things we already know. And so what if the big-name press conferences include a snippet from a rumored-come-true game or a teaser for something that’s coming out in a year. I’m tired of hearing about games that were teased years ago and are only just now coming to fruition. I’m tried of getting excited about things that end up getting cancelled. That decision to ride or get off the emotional rollercoaster is a frustrating one. And with things like E3, I’m almost to the point where I’d just rather avoid it altogether.

Jake: Perhaps the answer is in figuring out who E3 is for. Sam makes the point that E3 is still meant to be a tradeshow as much as it is a news and hype vehicle, perhaps even more so. We consumers are happy enough with a stable news cycle and the simple fact that these show are around to reinforce the idea that those behind one of our favorite pastimes are still doing well and still doing their best to push the envelope. Do we need the shows to see this? No. So in this sense maybe shows like E3 are really only necessary for the professionals participating in them.

Derek: For me, I absolutely love it. E3 represents the promise of new. Sure, this year’s show was preempted by what seemed to be more leaks and reveals than usual, but it didn’t diminish any of my excitement. E3 is a giant spectacle and a way for the industry to kind of show off. Not only that, based on people I know in the industry, it’s a way for them to not only get a closer look at the competition but to meet up with friends who they either don’t get to see often or haven’t seen in quite some time. I still enjoy covering them, watching them, and hopefully someday, to attend them. Granted, this is a view point from someone on the outside looking in, but I can definitely understand the points that where Sam and Niall are bringing up about cost and necessity as well.

Cary: I think my general interests in gaming, save for a handful of mainstream titles (Dragon Age, Mass Effect), are steering away from what E3 represents. Still, there’s no way game companies are going to give up on marketing, and E3 is marketing at its best, so I’m with Jake in saying that trade shows are necessary for industry professionals. But that need to build hype extends to what Derek says about the spectacle and excitement of the whole thing and how they affect consumers in positive ways. I’m just stodgy and cynical when it comes to believing in any for-profit companies, game companies included. I want to believe that shows like E3 are made and promoted in the consumers’ best interests, and maybe they once were (and still are). But my gut says otherwise.

Maybe I just need to go to one someday, and I’ll end up eating my words.

Over the course of this discussion we’ve seen that maybe E3 is more necessary for developers than it is for gamers, even though it’s something that still manages to rally those of us with a love for the medium each year, whether we’re really into the show or not.

Is this the definitive answer? No, of course not! Which is why we need you to add to the discussion. What is E3 to you? Do you think we still need it?

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One response to “UWG ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION: DO WE NEED E3?

  1. While I wouldn’t say E3 is needed, I agree that it is a great way for a publisher or developer to build hype for their products. As Sam mentioned, coverage is guaranteed. It also allows companies to provide unique and flashy demonstrations and reveals. Press releases are fine but having a cherished designer make a surprise announcement live is much more effective. Plus, how much cooler is it to see a debut trailer in a huge media theater vs on a computer screen at home or in a cubicle? If a company can control the context and environment of their marketing, it’s easier to get their message across.

    E3 doesn’t seem all that important to journalists and gaming sites. It is a way for writers and editors to meet people in the industry but beyond that, the opportunities to do original reporting appears lacking. I say this not as someone who has covered E3 live but as a gamer who has pored over similar E3 articles on dozens of different websites for years (I think this also speaks to a different, larger problem about games journalism, though). I understand those working at indie sites may be really interested in going to E3, but unless they are focusing on features and not news, previews, and reviews, I don’t really see the point. Other industry events like GDC and Indiecade seem like much more valuable resources for writers.

    If it were open to the public and if things like PAX didn’t exist, I’d say E3 is important to have for the consumers. But it’s not open to the public and there are other gaming conventions throughout the year, so I don’t really know why the average gamer would even want to go to E3. They can get all their E3 info online and attend more gamer-friendly conventions throughout the year. I’m sure experiencing the hype live must be exciting but also fleeting. That said, do consumers need E3? I would say no.

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