Why has E3, the biggest video game show in the world, lost its luster ?

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), one of the most anticipated annual meetings for video game players around the world, will not take place in 2022 . Its creator, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), has been confronted for several years with the disinterest of video game companies. Publishers, in particular, prefer to create their own events to advertise. A less expensive strategy that reaches an equally large audience. From its origins, the E3 already had the seeds of its slow agony.

E3, an event initially dedicated to professionals

Canceled in 2020 for health reasons, then back in an exclusively digital format in 2021, E3 will not take place this year, neither physically nor online. The ESA explained that it wanted to rethink the formula to deal with the growing number of industry players who shun the event. This allowed the Summer Game Fest, an online video game festival, to supplant E3. This high mass was imagined by Geoff Keighley, who also organizes the equivalent of the video game Oscars, the Game Awards.

In reality, it wasn’t just Summer Game Fest or publisher events that made E3 suffer. The ESA is an American lobby created in 1994 when the video game was gaining momentum, despite the negative image of the sector in the eyes of the public. In 1995, ESA organized the first E3 in the place destined to become its historic base, the Los Angeles Convention Center. This first edition welcomes 50,000 people, exclusively video game professionals and journalists. The publishers who present their games there are members of the ESA for which they contribute. In the pre-internet era, the aim of publishers was to take advantage of this high influx to present their next games and products to as many people as possible.

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Attendance at the show grew steadily until it peaked in 2005 with 70,000 visitors. A double-edged success since this gain in popularity has led to an increase in the cost of the organization, both for the ESA and for the publishers. The majority of new visitors were, for example, bloggers and people with little influence in the industry. They stalked the corridors of the show in droves, making the queues to attend the presentations endless, which put off many exhibitors.

To counteract the consequences of its popularity, the ESA wanted to reinvent the formula by organizing a smaller E3 in 2007 and 2008. The association thought to compensate for the loss of attendance linked to this format by inviting only mainstream media, in the hope to reach a wide audience. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, the mass media and mainstream press gave no importance to video games. Top-tier publishers like Activision or Vivendi decided to leave the event, dealing a severe blow to the show.

Publishers prefer more direct communication

These first departures began the downfall of E3. At the same time, the internet has become more democratic and the most popular social networks such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have emerged. Publishers now have their own communication channels to be in direct contact with consumers. Industry leaders realized that E3 had nothing more to offer them. Major players separated from ESA, such as Nintendo in 2013. The Japanese company created its own pre-recorded video format, which protected it from the vagaries of conferences: Nintendo Direct.

Gradually, other publishers will follow suit. Electronic Arts, which has major licenses such as FIFA and The Sims , signed its departure in 2016 to create its own event. A brutal blow was dealt to E3 when the video game juggernaut, Sony, with its PlayStation, withdrew in 2019. The Japanese company has also decided to ensure its communication through its own conferences. It was modeled on Nintendo’s model with a presentation video format: the State of Play.

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Today, even publishers smaller than giants like Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft, organize their events online. This is particularly the case of Capcom, Sega or Square Enix, to name a few. With direct communication to consumers, the very principle of E3 has been completely questioned.

To survive, E3 is trying to reinvent itself

E3 had a real interest in its beginnings because it was aimed at potential investors. Publishers’ conferences drowned their audience in numbers. It was not surprising, the show was dedicated to professionals. The companies came to demonstrate their good health and their formidable future. The objective was to impress and make many promises. Resellers even found their account there, because it allowed video game shops to get an idea of ​​the productions that were going to work best to adapt their stock accordingly.

The industry giants have their own communication and distribution channels, so they no longer need to convince video game stores to invest in their productions. Online stores like Sony’s PlayStation Store or Nintendo’s eShop have become accessible, entering gamers’ consumption habits. From then on, all the cards are in the hands of the video game companies so that they no longer have to depend on an intermediary who costs money.

Publishers no longer have any interest in putting money into E3, and no longer do. A godsend that the salon needs to survive. The ESA has tried to overcome this problem by selling access tickets to its event for non-professionals. In 2015, 5,000 people could come and visit the Los Angeles Convention Center to discover the new games. The peak of attendance once again climbed until 2019 with 65,000 visitors. The Convention Center becomes chaotic, fans mixing with professionals. E3 was geared more towards gamers, focusing on flashy presentations of upcoming games. This led to a drop in the number of exhibitors.

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Stanley Pierre-Louis, head of ESA, officially announced on Wednesday May 8 that E3 will take place in 2023 . It will take a hybrid form, both online and with a physical presence. Everyone is wondering about the publishers who will participate in this edition. The digital version of E3 offered in 2021 did not convince. The companies that were present did not always have the experience, nor the means, to offer attractive conferences.

Shawn Layden, the former director of PlayStation Studios, speculated that this next edition would be inspired by Comic Con, the largest American convention dedicated to pop culture. It would be a festival dedicated to fans, more interactive and with the presence of celebrities and influencers. In the past, Hollywood stars like Keanus Reeves have stepped up to create buzz.

For his part, Geoff Keighley, organizer of the Summer Game Fest, took advantage of the opening of his online event on May 9 to affirm that the next edition will have a physical iteration, without giving more details. This would put E3 in direct competition with a new opponent. The two entities will have to compete for the few publishers and developers who will want to contribute to their show. However, they risk interfering with each other’s communication and misleading the public.

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SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

The blog of a computer enthusiast who shares news, tutorials, tips, online tools and software for Windows, macOS, Linux, Web designer and Video games.

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