Op-Ed: Is E3 Still Relevant?

Does E3 still bring anything special to the table in this Internet age?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/11/2015 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

E3 as sheer spectacle is an unmitigated success every single year. The destination for all major players in the world of video games, E3 draws companies and faces from all around the world to the halls of the LA Convention Center to give grandiose speeches, hawk their wares, and frankly make a lot of promises. Fans lap it up, not because they dig corporate-types in sport coats and t-shirts trying their hardest to seem the most un-robotic of their compatriots, but because it’s the event where the largest amount of collective beans are spilled by their favorite video game companies. Everyone dishes. Names are named. What’s Sony been up to? What Amiibo is Nintendo launching that’s going to break the internet in half when everyone rushes to order it? How will Microsoft make Rare more of a footnote this time?

E3 is the Super Bowl of the video game industry, and it has been for a long time now. Everyone shows up at E3, and that’s just how it is and how it’s going to be from now until the zombie apocalypse. At least, that’s what it seemed like– until Nintendo decided to do things its own way. Starting a couple of years ago, Nintendo did the unthinkable and declared it would not be taking the stage at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. One of the three biggest entities in the entire industry declared it was going to do its own thing. And surprisingly… it worked. The world didn’t end, and if anything, arguably more people were interested in what Nintendo had to say because of its decision to not do a traditional stage presentation. In fact, at E3 2014 the company delivered a Nintendo Direct broadcast that quite literally stole the show. It was funny, informative, and followed up by a Nintendo Treehouse broadcast that gave fans incredibly fascinating glimpses into then-upcoming titles, previews that were better than mere trailers.

The decision to communicate the company’s slate of video game projects via the internet and not in front of a camera in a packed theater certainly had Nintendo under the microscope with more than one critic. “How could Nintendo possibly hope to be relevant and get its information out to fans if it doesn’t take the stage?” was asked and debated across a variety of gaming outlets. Yet, Nintendo was absolutely heard, and by being able to garner as much attention as it did, raised another question altogether: does the world even need E3 anymore? Part of what seemed to fuel Nintendo’s decision to go solo was the undeniable truth that with the prevalence of the internet and the 24-hour news cycle, there was no way it would ever be speaking into a vacuum. The logistics of where Nintendo was beaming its message from are irrelevant when so long as it’s delivered somewhere, the content will be picked up and spread everywhere instantaneously. IGN and GameSpot couldn’t care less if Nintendo had Reggie do its E3 presentation from behind the door of a closed bathroom stall at LAX, if there’s a new Metroid game coming out, that will be on the home page hell or high water.

Until the day comes that Nintendo closes up shop and disappears into the wind, fans will always want to know what the company is up to. And despite how much the Nintendo enthusiast in me would like to argue otherwise, if Sony and Microsoft declared tomorrow that their E3 presentations would also only be on the internet, both would make the usual splashes in the news that they always do. However, though E3 as a vehicle for message delivery isn’t as important as it once was, what it’s still invaluable for is the hands-on experience it provides. Controller in hand and trying out each company’s new games is an irreplaceable way to build hype for upcoming projects. Look no further than Nintendo’s reveal of 3DS several years ago for proof; as a concept, sterile words can only elicit so much of a response from fans, and Nintendo knew it. To make sure that nothing was lost in translation, the company sent out legions of its staffers with 3DSes in tow to showcase the handheld’s glasses-free 3D effect to the crowd. As a result, every blogger and journalist who saw the portable was able to channel their enthusiasm and build up excitement a lot better than a Nintendo of America Tweet ever could.

Though people live in a society that’s continually becoming further and further removed from physical media through everything from e-readers to music services like iTunes, events such as E3 remain an invaluable momentum builder for virtually every person in attendance. At E3 last year (and acknowledging that I’m maybe just a tad bit biased) I couldn’t help but notice how much electricity seemed to be shooting through the crowds of people gathered at Nintendo’s corner of the show floor. Throngs of journalists and media representatives were lined up to play Smash Bros. Splatoon was a shocker from the outset, and anyone who played its demo on the split-level kiosk Nintendo erected for the game was immediately wowed. Hyrule Warriors drove a lot of attendees positively giddy with excitement. These are responses that a video on a smartphone can’t compete with. It’s infectious. I could feel my pulse tick up watching everyone around me getting such a kick from all the games on display.

So while Nintendo and any other company that might decide to follow in its footsteps will continue to challenge the viability of putting together expensive stage productions versus equally effective internet briefings, there is no substitute for a packed convention center filled with impressionable writers and broadcasters. Fans continue to be denied a shot at setting foot at E3, so the thoughts and analysis of the gaming press who are able to attend remains invaluable. Mario Galaxy 3 (just an example!) might blow minds with an epic announcement trailer, but when fans can come to a site like Nintendojo and get a real feel for what’s different, what’s the same, and more, that’s when the true magic starts to work. Seriously, a movie trailer is cool, but when friends come back from actually watching it and say how freaking amazing it was, well, that’s what really pushes someone into the theater to give it a watch. E3 and writers like us here at Nintendojo are the driving force for getting fans into the moment of all the demos and action at the show, and that’s a lot better than a soulless press release any day.

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