Bits & Bytes: Stop Saying Nonsense About E3

Robert sets the record straight on the summer video game convention season!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/23/2024 22:37 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

A couple of weeks back I found myself in Los Angeles attending both Summer Game Fest and IGN Live. These media events were both very big deals, featuring industry attendees, panels, and, naturally, sneak peeks at games coming within the next year or so. What’s that, you ask? That sounds an awful lot like E3? Why, dear reader, I should hope you’d know by now that E3 is well and truly dead. One writer boldly declared that E3 was for a “version of the industry” that no longer exists, as “direct marketing, distribution made an expensive annual show unnecessary.” Another asked “whether the industry still needs a moment like E3.”

Yet here we are with two (admittedly smaller scale) shows taking place on the same weekend, soon to be followed by Gamescom and PAX West in August, and Tokyo Game Show in September. And let’s not forget that in March we had GDC, SXSW, and PAX East. DICE was in the February preceding that. It’s almost like, bear with me, it’s almost like there isn’t a lack of demand for industry events where bigwigs rub elbows together and make grandiose speeches, journalists get wined and dined, and a bunch of news stories are generated, resulting in a bunch of buzz for upcoming projects.

Play Days at Summer Game Fest 2024

I believe I’ve made this point before, but apparently it needs to be repeated: the same people bloviating about how “different” the industry is now and what an archaic model E3 was are the same people that told you PlayStation 3 was going to be the last video game console. I’ll tell you why I think E3 actually failed: it was mismanaged. That’s it.

Because if that’s not the reason, then companies like PlayStation, Xbox, Capcom, and so on wouldn’t bother with a smaller show like Summer Game Fest or IGN Live. These companies would be saying, “Oh, a convention? Direct marketing and distribution make such an expense unnecessary!” And they also wouldn’t bother with larger scale shows like GDC, which occupies the Moscone Center right in the heart of San Francisco—hardly a frugal location to hold an event. Even Summer Game Fest had its big stage presentation at the YouTube Theater, which is right inside of SoFi Stadium. I think they had a little event called the Super Bowl there a couple of years ago, no biggie.

Sonic at IGN Live 2024

No, the industry has no problem splashing around cash (despite the layoffs, I might add) if they think there’s value to come from it (also called return on investment or ROI for all the corporate zombies out there). Clearly, the summer convention model still has value. What didn’t have value, seemingly, was forking over a minimum of $30,000 for 600 square feet of space in the Los Angeles Convention Center and anywhere from $80,000 to $250,000 to construct the booth itself on top of that. If you look at this piece put out by in 2917 you’ll see that the costs can vary quite a bit from venue to venue, but right there at the top only behind GDC in terms of cost was E3. So if the value proposition isn’t there anymore for archaic shows like E3, then why are devs still forking over cash to go to GDC? Why are they doing any conventions at all?

Again, maybe it’s because the way E3 was run was the problem, not the model itself. And maybe, just maybe, conventions still build all the hype they ever did, regardless of social media and direct marketing.

But hey, PlayStation 5 is the last video game console y’all. You heard it here first.

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