Note: I’ll probably make some small edits to this and throw in some pictures, but for right now I just wanted to get this posted. – Andrew
Hey everyone, Andrew here. I don’t normally ever do personal writing on the site, but I figured maybe it’s time for a sit down and talk (or in this case type) it out session about this year’s E3 conference/convention. To me, E3 is one of the biggest gaming conventions each year. Granted it doesn’t have the attendance of something like Tokyo Game show or Gamescom, but it is generally where we see things like new console announcements and new game teasers/trailers for the first time. Heck, even PAX east this year had over 80,000 attendees.
I’ll start this off by saying I was previously excited to finally have the opportunity to actually attend E3 for once. Last year I was able to spend one day on the floor, by the grace of some awesome friends in the gaming industry. This trip to E3 was a huge disappointment.
E3 has always been a non-consumer show. Attendees of E3 previously had to be either invited guests (celebrities, friends, lucky winners of contests, etc.), legitimate media (i.e. not TheDGCast sadly), businesses in the gaming industry (think accessory makers like Nyko, Hyperkin, etc.), game developers and publishers, and so forth. You couldn’t just buy a ticket, and even then the cost for industry personnel was around $1,000 for the show. If I recall correctly (and I’m not going to google it because it’s not super important to the point) last year E3 gave some developers badges with the idea that they could give them away to consumers so that they could attend E3 and see what it was all about. You still couldn’t buy a badge, but you had a shot at going. This year they actually opened up the show to 15,000 consumers, sell early bird badges for $150 and regular badges for $250. Full Disclosure: I had to buy a badge because our media metrics don’t satisfy the requirements of E3’s media process. Which is totally fine, but just so you understand my experience was as a regular badge holder.
Here’s the issue:
I felt unwanted at the show. It’s not that personally someone said “get out of here,” but booth staff and exhibitors definitely looked you up and down if you had the bright yellow/green badge holders. Friends of mine in the industry felt burdened with the extra attendees and the clogged aisles full of people wandering aimlessly. A handful of industry booth workers gave zero attention when trying to talk about their games/products. Some looked at the badge and kept doing what they were doing. It wasn’t a welcoming feeling for me, versus even as a regular attendee at PAX or PSX you always find developers who are beyond excited to talk about their games at great length, regardless of whether or not you’ll be going to write about it later on some website. The feeling of disappointment seemed mutual from friends who were in media/industry pass holders; lines were clogged, getting to appointments was a hassle and people (yellow badge holders) were rude. There were reports about scuffles for swag, selfie sticks everywhere poking and prodding people, and getting constantly shoved trying to walk through areas to get somewhere. From my perspective, it seems like ESA just lined their pockets with 15,000 new people’s money and added a huge amount of congestion to people who actually had business to attend to at the show. It makes for a show that I feel was a waste of my time and money. Sure, I got to see a bunch of friends and hang out with them, but I could’ve easily kept the $250 for the E3 ticket, and just met them for dinner each night and went and did stuff in LA all afternoon instead.
Here’s where I think the problem is:
1.) ESA chose to convert a traditionally non-consumer show into a consumer show, because they can make money off it. What they didn’t do was change the way the show operates, so everyone working has an expectation of business as usual, but maybe didn’t expect this barrage of 15k people skipping through the doors. At $250, it’s basically twice the price of PAX tickets but the allure of attending E3 is probably what drew all these people in. For me, the idea of going and potentially making new connections or media partnerships was high on my list, but didn’t really end up happening at all.
2.) The Press Conferences: They’re held BEFORE the expo hall even opens during the week, and getting into them is difficult if you’re not media/press/industry. Some of my friends were actually chased (pursued by suited security across the street) away from the Sony presser. In previous years there was a stand-by line to help fill seats so the place looked packed, but I guess this time they didn’t want to do that. It doesn’t change the congestion of the expo hall, but if the conferences were held during the expo hall days you could potentially disperse some of the crowd who may want to just sit in a satellite theatre nearby and watch those conferences instead of stacking up lines.
3.) Playable Demos/Appointments: Media and Industry types have booked appointments to see games, and not every single company there has a separate media area behind the scenes. I think Sony’s booth was entirely based on booking appointments for fans through the Experience app, which meant if you didn’t book an appointment through that, you weren’t playing anything at Sony. It was the same process for the Sony Theatre options, which was a sit down room where you watched a dev play a portion of their game for 10-30 minutes. Theatre options for Sony were Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Days Gone, Monster Hunter, Spiderman, and Detroit: Become Human. The catch was you could only book two theaters per day, and there wasn’t a stand-by line just to wait to see them alongside those who scheduled a time. Also, the appointments via the app were booked almost instantly when they went live, so it was almost entirely based on luck. I couldn’t get Destiny 2 any of the days but I lucked out and got GT Sport because I’m guessing most people weren’t that excited to see it; it had the most open slots after the app went live where as D2 and CoD were filled in seconds.
Again, the repercussion of things like this is you’ve allowed all these extra people into the expo hall with nowhere to go and not a lot of easy ways to do anything. The E3 Coliseum provided the panel experience you might get at PAX or PSX, but very few people I spoke with actually went over to any of them. Perhaps they didn’t know, or would rather spend 4 hours in a line waiting to play Destiny 2. Hard to tell.
So what does this all mean?
My personal hot take on E3 becoming a consumer show: It’s stupid, don’t do this again. It seems like they’re just doing it for the money, and that’s disappointing because it shows a lack of concern for everyone who’s trying to attend and have a good time. Media and industry business needs a place to operate and convene, and it just felt beyond overcrowded with the addition of 15k people. That and the PAX “experience” of it all sucked. Getting shoved constantly by people trying to rush to some booth for the minimal amounts of swag was just ridiculous. Was everyone rude? No, but it felt like I couldn’t walk 10ft without catching an elbow or a backpack full of useless stuff. Everyone walking with their selfie stick 4ft out in front of them, or with their phone in their face waving it around “Oh my god I’m live on the E3 floor look at this Xbox Booth it is PACKED. WOW.” You could call me a bit cynical, or numb to the excitement the general public feels about finally being able to attend E3. Oh well.
On more than one occasion I got the silent treatment or the “no” response when I went to visit industry friends at their booths because of the bright yellow badge holders regular attendees had around our necks. I even had one bad interaction with a fellow media friend after making a joke and their colleagues response literally was walking away and not even speaking to me the remainder of the show. By the way, get the f#%^ over yourself. So E3’s inviting people to pay money to come to the show, but I just felt a large sense of “we don’t want you here” from many of the industry at large. Even ones that know me from panels or interviews at PAX East/West.
That’s NOT what E3 should be about. It’s not about cosplay, it’s not about meeting your favorite YouTubers or Twitch streamers. There are already a ton of conventions with a direct consumer focus that have those opportunities for you. TwitchCon and VidCon exist for you to meet internet celebs. As a person who bought their badge to get in, I don’t think they should sell them again. I’m sure they will because 15k x $250 = a lot of money. Media badges and most industry badges are generally given out for free, so it provides them with an opportunity to make additional profit aside from booth space rentals. Still though, don’t do it. It waters down the experience for the people trying to actually accomplish business/work related tasks while they are there, and I guarantee I’m not the only one who felt that way.
I know it may sound elitist to a point, but there needs to be places the general public can’t be. I doubt a single person who waited for hours to play Destiny 2 or CoD, or Final Fantasy, etc. were on the fence about the game, they just want to be able to say they played it first.
Short take: E3 being open to the public was a giant cluster f%^& and if they do it again next year I doubt I’ll attend again.
Curious to hear your thoughts, tweet me @SoAfterISaid and let me know if you experienced similar situations.