E3 is one of the world’s premier gaming expos. Recently, several big name publishers have opted not to have booths at E3 2016. Activision, EA, Disney Interactive and Wargaming have dropped from the event, abandoning the show floor. With big name industry players dropping out, many ask if E3 is still relevant?
If the event is still relevant, then why are so many high profile publishers opting out? Hosting your own event, focusing on fans instead of only media, finding solutions through partnerships and avoiding the noise are all reasons some have left.
Electronic Arts has had a major E3 presence in the past. In 2015, the mega publisher revealed the latest from EA Sports,teased brand new hits like Mass Effect Andromedaand showed us why we should be excited for Star Wars Battlefront.
This year, EA has chosen to skip the event. They’ve decided to host their own event,EA Play, on June 12-14. The EA Play event closely matches their approach to past E3’s. EA’s Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Bruzzo says the event will be "similar [to last year’s press conference] in that it’s very much about the games… It’s also going to include competitions, special guest appearances, musical performances, and other cool stuff that makes it an event."
Having this event a day before E3 means the gaming world is gearing up for these types of conferences and reveals. Removing themselves from the E3 show floor means distancing themselves from the booth costs and the “noise” of the event. It also allows EA to get closer to "the driving force behind everything we [EA] do" -players.
E3 is a media focused event, different from events like PAX or PSX which are consumer focused. With EA Play, EA is putting players first by, “opening up our world to you [players] with unique new live events in Los Angeles and London.”
This move indicates attracting player attention live and online is as important to EA as being spotted by the right media outlets. Besides, it’s not like EA Play will have a particular absence of press. Media outlets are sure to on site, or covering the event online as heavily as they would any part of E3. Press events often exclude fans and players. However, consumer focused events rarely restrict press and media from attending.
By hosting their own event and opening it to the public, EA expects a swarm of players and media. Streamers, YouTube content creators, bloggers and other “influencers” will share thoughts and gameplay from their time at the event. Fans can expect hands on game demos and dedicated “spaces where content creators can walk up and stream right to their own channels." If you're unable to visit in person, EA encourages you to participate online with live streams and behind the scenes content.
Disney Interactive has a similar, fans first focus. The company will not be at E3, but has indicated they will offer “additional direct to fan engagements through the summer this year”.
The focus on fans means media and consumer exposure now work together in ways only having a booth on the E3 showfloor might not allow. Developers and publishers are more interested than ever in reaching fans directly, free of bias, rather than filtering through news and media outlets that often frame game news in specific ways.
Activision announced they are “proud to be participating in this premier video game event [E3], but won’t have an Activision booth on the show floor.”
The publisher notes, “In June, we’re going to be at E3 showcasing gameplay from Infinity Ward’s ambitious new game. We’re looking forward to sharing exciting new details about the next great Call of Duty game in partnership with our friends at PlayStation.”
Brands like Xbox and PlayStation battle over third party reveal rights and partnerships year after year. Each platform wants the biggest blockbusters on their E3 stage. This year, Activision and PlayStation have partnered for the 2016 Call of Duty reveal - a huge part of any E3. There’s no doubt this will take place on one of the events biggest stages, Sony’s press event.
With this level of exposure, it doesn’t make much sense for Activision to have a booth or an event that re-reveals the content shown moments earlier. Instead, they’ve opted out, but will continue generating hype and exposure for their flagship franchise as if they were there.
We’re likely to see similar partnerships with Activision’s other big franchises, like Destiny. While Activision won’t be on hand, don’t be surprised if Destiny finds its way onto a partner's stage like it has in the past.
At last year’s E3, more than 1,600 products were shown. Being noticed on the crowded show floor, can be an expensive challenge. Once noticed, being remembered presents new, equally intimidating obstacles.
For publishers and developers, sometimes the cost of attending does not match benefits. With all the reveals, demos, walkthroughs, interviews and announcements it’s hard for fans to keep up with the latest. It’s also tough for games to make a splash among industry giants, and stiff genre related competition.
Fighting through the noise of E3 to make sure you receive the exposure needed to make the investment a success - is a risk some aren’t interested in taking. EA Play takes place two days before E3. Close enough to ride the hype wave, but earlier enough to announce and reveal everything before being drowned by other high profile announcements and news.
Above are reasons why some creators have opted out of the event. Whether it’s hosting their own event, finding solutions through partnerships, choosing to engage fans directly or E3 simply not being a good fit.
That doesn’t mean E3 has lost its credibility as one of the premier gaming expos the world over. Take a look at some of the mind blowing numbers from E3 2015:
Naturally, for exhibitors in attendance, the goal of the event is exposure. Hoards of media outlets are searching for the next big games, hottest trends and best content which makes showcasing your game at E3 a great fit. The numbers for E3 2015 demonstrate an incredible potential to reach audiences. Some studios aren't able to throw their own, dedicated event simultaneously in two countries, like EA, so the environment created by E3 is a worthy alternative.
E3 captivates gaming audiences aroung the world each year. This means meeting exposure related goals is a real possibility. The media allows gamers to see games they otherwise may have missed. These outlets go hands on, interview game creators and share their thoughts.
Consider all the indie games revealed during Xbox and PlayStation’s press events. Exposing the masses to all new products in such a big way means the industry and its fans have so much to look forward to.
E3 first took place in 1995. Each subsequent year, the event has changed and exhibitors have come and gone (and come back again). The industry changes as does the needs and goals of creator’s. Gaming events adapt as a reflection of this turbulence. This means E3 isn't going anywhere any time soon. We’ve been asking the “is E3 relevant” question for years and the answer, every June is a resounding 'yes'.
This isn’t the first time Activision has bowed out. The publisher didn’t attend in 2008 either. Bethesda, who had their first official E3 Press Event last year found success and has already declared they will be returning for round two. Industry giants like Sony Computer Entertainment, Ubisoft and Microsoft have already been confirmed for E3 2016 - as well as many more.
The event has proven things change, but that it remains a sought after place to promote and share gaming news with the world. The event changes and adapts much like the exhibitors change and adapt to their own business needs. Each year, the ESA is vocal about attempts to make the event better for the following year. Rich Taylor, Senior VP of Communications and Industry Affairs at the ESA reveals,
“One of the things we do at the close of every E3 is that we talk to everyone we can… and we try and figure out how to change the experience and make it better. We’ve done that this time, and we will be making adjustments to guarantee it is going to be a tremendous show. There are a number of press briefings going on – a record number,I believe – that starts a few days before E3. That’s a reflection of the fact that people realise that this is the place to make news and break news, and have that amplified around the globe in a way like no other show can.”
This year is no different. The ESA will react and adapt to losing a few big names, and find ways to improve and bring on more.
E3 is one of the most exciting times of the year for the industry. The event helps define the gaming landscape for years to come and shows gamers what to look forward to. The show reveals trends that drive the industry and brings together the biggest names and games for a whirlwind week of entertainment.
While some partners have decided this year, E3 doesn't make sense for them, be it for the noise, hosting their own events or seeking fan exposure specifically - that doesn't mean the itself is in danger of collapse. Rich Taylor of the ESA confidently asserts, “We look forward to, once again, capturing the world's attention in June."
I can’t wait. Be sure to check out more on E3 and how to make the most of game conferences at Red Fox Insights.