This year’s E3 was the first time that the expo has ever been open to the public. Until now, only industry professionals (developers, influencers, media, etc.) were supposed to attend the expo. Though many fans inevitably found clever ways to get in, for the most part it was kept under control and only the people who were supposed to attend were present. As a result, the show floor was never packed to the extreme extent that it was this year.
And goodness was it packed this year. 15,000 passes were made available for public purchase, and none were left unspoken for. It was so busy, in fact, that the show floor was opened 15 minutes early on the first day simply because the hordes of people amassing outside the Los Angeles Convention Center were starting to become a safety hazard as they packed the sidewalks. When the doors were opened, a gargantuan and slow-moving mass of people began to flood every inch of the show floor. And so it was for the remainder of the expo.
— Jeff Rubenstein (@jeffrubenstein) June 14, 2017
The fight to open E3 to the general public has been one that’s gone on for years now. Fans have been understandably disappointed for a long time about having to miss out on gaming’s biggest annual event. Personally, I’m happy for all the fans who finally had their dream of attending E3 come true this year.
However, it’s important to consider why fans were welcomed at E3 2017. Was it done merely as a kind gesture, or was there more to it? Well, it turns out that overall the decision to open E3 was a strategic one. The reality is that the decision was a business oriented one focused on money. And that’s fair — after all, it’s only sensible that big companies in the game industry should try to increase their profits.
But all of this makes you wonder: what should E3 really be about? Why has the show always been closed to the general public? And is it right that now, after all these years, fans have been allowed to attend?
There’s no obvious or completely right answer to these questions. I’m sure as hell not going to claim that I know exactly how these things ought to be. But I think it’s important nonetheless to start this conversation and point out some things that clearly set E3 2017 apart from previous years.
The things that were good about opening E3 to the public were fairly obvious. Business benefits aside, thousands of fans got to attend gaming’s biggest show. There’s no doubt that for many of these fans attending the expo must have been an unforgettable experience, and for some, even a life-changing one. Like I said earlier: I’m genuinely happy for all the fans that had their dream of attending E3 come true.
On the business side of things, having 15,000 fans attend the expo is clearly a terrific opportunity for companies to connect with their consumers and market their products and services. Again, the real motivation behind the decision to open E3 2017 to the public was money, so there’s no doubt that the many companies and studios that were present benefited greatly from a business standpoint.
All in all, it’s safe to say that opening E3 to the public makes it a happier occasion overall. Fans have a great time, and businesses secure future profits through direct mass-marketing.
The obvious negative effect opening E3 had was that it took away much of the expo’s professionalism. What was once a slow-paced and meticulously planned event turned into the same chaotic pandemonium that conventions like PAX are known for. Whereas in previous years most attendees could easily visit the booths they were interested in and try the games they were excited for, now each booth had massive, slow-moving lines that you’d have to wait in for a decent chunk of your day.
This general chaos is what I think may have led to some of the more troubling differences we saw at E3 2017. The most obvious of these, in my opinion, was the at times shocking lack of production quality throughout the show. PlayStation’s conference had essentially no audio for the entire first 5 minutes. Hell, it may actually have been a good bit longer than 5 minutes. Trailers during other conferences has no audio whatsoever. The E3 Coliseum — a two day event that featured a boatload of famous guests — had a number of incredibly awkward moments where presenters and stagehands were running around trying to make sense of what was supposed to be happening. The list sadly goes on and on.
This sort of thing was nearly unheard of in past years. The conferences were well-planned and concise, with hardly any hiccups. The show floor livestreams were full of energy and constantly on-point, with engaging interviews and lots of in-depth discussion. This year, everything was different. The conferences were riddled with awkward moments and technical issues. The livestreams were messy, with both the interviewers and the developers seeming at times overwhelmed, and presenters looking to producers offstage for advice far too often.
Thus it seems that the general chaos of E3 brought on by the hordes of fans may have severely hurt the overall quality of the show. And that’s not too surprising, frankly. Imagine trying to run around the show floor to make it to an interview as a developer with hordes of people in your way, many of which are eagerly looking to stop you for a picture. And worse, imagine trying to do a solid job of interviewing developers as a presenter with hordes of people constantly watching you and looking to talk to you each time you go off air for a break. As far as trying to put on a good show is concerned, having 15,000 fans present doesn’t help.
This leads me to the last thing I’d like to point out. I’m well aware that this last point is quite a bit more far-fetched than the rest of what I’ve discussed, but it’s worth considering.
These events are supposed to be press conferences, after all. They’re supposed to be an opportunity for leading companies in the game industry to show their colleagues and the media what they’ve got in store, then give them all a chance to get hands-on with the new products on the show floor. When you add 15,000 fans into the equation, it’s easy to see why some of these companies may feel less eager to go all-out. 15,000 fans are a lot easier to impress than fellow industry professionals — so much so, apparently, that these companies didn’t even bother to plan their shows enough to avoid horrific technical issues.
It’s very possible that E3 is no longer going to be the place where the industry comes together to show off the best it has to offer. Why? Simply because doing things this way is more profitable, as aforementioned.
In the end, the question I want to ask is this: Do we really want E3 to become about money and fun, rather than quality and progress as an industry?
If you’d like to share your thoughts on the issue, go ahead and message us on twitter. I’d love to hear what you think!