E3: Not What It Used To Be

The annual trade show has been a tremendous success for two decades, and that success is undermining its own relevance.

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The Electronic Entertainment Expo hits Los Angeles next week, and the biggest players in the gaming world will be there showing off their newest titles! Except for Blizzard. And Rockstar. And Respawn. And Bungie. And Valve. But outside of arguably the five most significant third-party developers, everybody should be there. (Except THQ.) (And Irrational Games.)

While some of these no-shows are expected, and some of these companies could see their games represented through publishing partners (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will be at the Microsoft and Sony booths, for example), the absences in aggregate suggest that E3's role in the gaming industry is changing. A decade ago, major players sitting out the show simply didn't happen. At E3 2002, Blizzard was showing off World of Warcraft. Rockstar unveiled Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Respawn co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella signed a long-term publishing agreement with Activision for their upstart studio Infinity Ward. Bungie talked about using Xbox Live to deliver an online version of Halo. And even though it was a bit early for Valve to show off Half-Life 2 (it would make its first public appearance at E3 2003), the original Xbox version of Counter-Strike was confirmed during the show.

The biggest difference between E3 2002 and E3 2012 for these developers is that they are bigger outfits and they now have the leverage to call their own shots. They don't need the spectacle of E3 to make their game announcements seem like a big deal. There's no need for them to fight each other for attention during E3 when they could choose from about 51 other weeks each year and be the talk of the entire industry. So now that they have a say in the matter, they're opting not to be there.

"When so many of the biggest and best developers don't see the value of appearing at E3, the show can't help but feel less vital, less essential."

This trend prompts a number of questions, most obviously, "Is E3 as relevant as it used to be?" The short answer to that is no. The industry doesn't rely on E3 the way it used to. While it's still the most important convention on the gaming calendar, it's no longer the comprehensive industry overview it used to be. When so many of the biggest and best developers don't see the value of appearing at E3, the show can't help but feel less vital, less essential to the industry.

In some ways, this is a natural outcome of E3 being a successful show. The Interactive Digital Software Association trade group (now the Entertainment Software Association) was formed to foster the growth of the industry, and E3 has been the biggest event on the group's calendar for 18 years. In that time, gaming has grown from a hobby for kids into a Supreme Court-recognized form of protected speech, a ubiquitous cultural phenomenon enjoyed by all ages and on just about every device with a screen, and a $100 billion global industry that produces blockbuster hits of such size that they no longer need an E3. The industry's biggest games are events in and of themselves, and the companies that make them have little incentive to dilute the impact of their unveilings by slotting them into a week jam-packed with competition for people's attention.

It's worth noting that with the exception of THQ, all of the aforementioned companies are no-showing E3 because they can afford to. E3 helped the industry get to this point. It helped these companies establish themselves and drew attention to the hits that earned them leverage. The fact that they no longer need E3 is a signal that the show isn't as important to the industry as it used to be, but it's also a signal that the show has accomplished what it set out to do.

It's a little like Apple and the Consumer Electronics Show. Apple doesn't participate in CES, and it doesn't need to. When the iPhone titan rolls out its newest models and products, it does so at its own press events that become the talk of the industry for weeks surrounding each show. CES may still be the place to go to take the temperature of the market as a whole, but it's no longer home to the biggest announcements because there are 800-pound gorillas out there that have outgrown it.

With the industry landscape shifting, it now falls to the ESA to reshape E3 in kind. In order to justify the show's existence in the future, the trade group needs to find the format that best serves the industry as a whole. That might mean a stronger emphasis on emerging trends like free-to-play and mobile gaming, or perhaps a reactionary shift to focus on packaged retail games. Unfortunately, the current model attempts to be the same thing it's always been: a comprehensive overview of the industry as a whole. But thanks in part to the success of E3s past, the industry is simply too big to pack into a single event, especially when its best and brightest have no inclination to show up.

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Discussion

268 comments
edhc44
edhc44

Sure. Because the attempt to change E3 worked wonders for ESA back in '07...

rushad_patel
rushad_patel

E3 may be useful for the biggies .. namely EA,  Microsoft , Sony but what we don't notice seeing E3 online are the smaller players who are showing of their ideas and gizmos for bigger parties to pick up. I still believe E3 is not just a place where the Market leaders just make a few announcements and measure the crowd response, but a large number of smaller developers having small counters hoping their dreams can be financed by these biggies when they are noticed at E3   

slycatch
slycatch

All of these companies being out of E3 just seem a coincidence. 

I do agree that the importance of the event has been reduced but it is still the place to be! It is still exiting!

Just because it isn't good, as the previous years, doesn't mean it's a bad thing.

Maybe a new format isn't also a bad thing.

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

I think there's enough stuff happening at E3 that any concerns about it's relevance are a bit overblown.  You could go down the list of the companies that are absent and have some good reasons for them not to be there. Bungie and Respawn, not ready yet.  Valve and Rockstar don't need to be there.  Blizzard? What would they show?  The next part of SC2?  The next WoW expansion?  They seem incapable of actually developing anything new anymore and plenty of people are happy to buy the products they are shipping. Rumors keep floating around THQ's financial health and how much more time is Irrational wanting to spend promoting the next Bioshock?

hippiesanta
hippiesanta

the topic title = someone is getting old

thekey
thekey

Is it any shock? No major developers showing up? To exclusive, no just anyone can go, No booth girls, only 4 platforms to choose from (Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, and Pc) And most importantly Trash games. When it comes to games too much of what we don't want and not too much of what we really want. No arcades to compare home versions of the games to.

EvolvedAnt
EvolvedAnt

Yes, let's make a huge article about how E3 is less relevant, just becasue some of the bigger companies just so happen to not have anything to show this year yet... makes perfect sense. I also like how Blizzard is mentioned... as if they've ever been at E3 in the past however many years.. Blizzard doesn't even count, because they usually have so many things to announce, events, and contests that there is no room for them at E3. The best and brightest have no inclination to show up simply because they have nothing substantial enough to show.

panameng
panameng

If this is truly the case, this is the time for indie developers to shine. With the way the gaming market is shifting, and people complaining about ''games aren't what they used to be'', indie developers can use this to their advantage and explode onto the scene instead of coming out with sleeper hits that too many people miss out on. Ride that wave for a few years, make some money, get some attention, and when the big companies come back out of their shell, the indie guys can take a step back along with their fruits and spoils of a clever, non war declaring strategy.

Foppe
Foppe

It's not what it used to be because the real E3 died years ago.

jamesmonkey4u
jamesmonkey4u

I think it's partly due to some of the big companies holding there own annual events so, they don't see E3 as so vitally important.

Setho10
Setho10

I think the issue isn't E3 but that the companies mentioned don't have anything to show for the most part. Respawn, Bungie, and Valve are probably just not at the point in development where they can share their new stuff. And like you said, Valve will be there at publisher's booths. Rockstar has said that GTAV won't be there. That doesn't mean they won't have anything to announce at one of the Console Maker's conferences. Rockstar still hasn't officially cancelled Agent or whatever it was going to be called so that could always show up. And Activision (and by extension Blizzard) hasn't attended E3 in years. Obviously Call of Duty will be there but Activision runs on the beat of its own drum for better or worse. I assume though that Respawn and Bungie and Valve will show up at e3 next year when they actually have something to show. Rockstar maybe or maybe not. Remember that these developers rarely have their own booths. If their publishers want to share the game then they will share them. It just depends on what games publishers want gamers to be talking about. Too many big games and gamers will lose focus. So yea, I expect those folks to show up at a later date. It's just they don't have anything to show this year. Or maybe I'm completely wrong and they'll all be on GTTV in two weeks instead. But this is my hunch.

currican
currican

Gamespot is not what it used to be* 

 

fixed

stakex007
stakex007

Just because a handful of the big names don't attend E3 anymore doesn't mean its not still a hugely important event. For all the developers that can create their own headlines with a simple game announcement, there are dozens of studios that can't and really need E3. The game industry isn't just about the few big names out there after all, and the majority of games people play don't come from the big studios.   

irwin88
irwin88

Before it's all about Gaming and Fun, Now No Big Money No Show... :(

 

deadmonkey76
deadmonkey76

I hope some new developers and gaming companies emerge and use e3 as a stepping stone and knock the likes of blizzard and rockstar off there thrones im sick of gta its old and stale and blizzard never realy change they do the same crap time and time again and everyone grips about actavision and there call of duty and these two half assed game publishers do the same thing as for thq good ridance.

kiamli1
kiamli1

I always thought of E3 as a console convention. At least for me what has ever been the most important is the press conferences from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo with what they deem to be their biggest announcements in games, hardware and their strategy for the next months.

Jyakotu
Jyakotu

E3 is still one of my favorite gaming conventions and it's still a major player for the industry. Sure, some of the bigger third party companies won't be present, but I always found the Big 3 to be the stars of E3. After all, most console games these days are multiplatform and a lot of 3rd party companies are starting to hold their own conventions. I'm still excited to read E3 news, watch trailers, and, my favorite part, watch the press conferences. I don't ever want E3 to go away.! I just can't image a world without E3 or any of the gaming conventions to be honest.

BrassBullet
BrassBullet

Gimme a break.  Remember what happened when E3 was cancelled?  That sucked, it was a terrible idea for the industry. 

 

Don't blame the industry's problems on E3.  Just because a global recession has extended the current consoles' lifetimes into unprecedented territory and brought the pace of innovation in gaming to a screeching halt, doesn't mean people don't want to see an industry-wide bash when said innovation resumes.

 

Wait two years and E3 will be the cat's pajamas.

gunnplay
gunnplay

That's sad, cause E3 is a major event for gamers around the world.  Which leads me to my next point.  Why not allow the public in?  Security would have to be increased but, wouldn't that make a difference?  If the buyers are at these conventions instead of just press, companies would now have their incentive to show up, right?  Am I wrong in this line of thinking?

reyace
reyace

Hopefully Sony talks about Playstation All Stars Battle Royale. looking forward to some more information :D

punkdsk8erdude
punkdsk8erdude

for software developers it is sort of a shame as a gamer that some of the biggest won't be represented. For example I didnt know Rockstar was going to be at E3, i have been looking forward to more GTA5 info this week but I guess I won't be getting any. The plus is that the surprises catch us all off guard and in a way make a bigger impact.

I think now the biggest purpose E3 seems to serve is actually for hardware as opposed to software. The big 3, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, all seem to still show up and intend to outshine each other through upcoming software and hardware, including add ons and peripherals. I for one am very excited for all 3 press conferences because with the next gen looming around the corner, who knows what each may have in store.

williebazerka
williebazerka

With gaming more mainstream than ever they know there games will sell so they don't have to go.Plus we already know newer games are coming like GTA5 even if we don't know the exact date.

jookiyaya
jookiyaya

aha E3 is losing money... I predict one day that this will soon dry up and E3 will be no more like how Expo was, and World's fair was... Trust me

DeViLzzz
DeViLzzz

I wish they would show E3 on the movie screen live over a weekend.  I would gladly pony up money to enjoy some fun food and see video games on the big screen vs spending any of my money on all the crappy movies coming out now.

Petnos
Petnos

I think E3 still has plenty of relevance. Just not in the same place as it used to.

Where once the leaders of the gaming industry show off their stuff, now the lesser companies get to show off their newest products.

Personally, I'm glad that lots of gaming titans aren't going to be there. We hear so much about WoW, Halo, GTA, and many other household video game names every day without the likes of E3.

Gue1
Gue1

It feels like that and many developers are skipping because they all are aware that next gen starts when Sony says so. When Sony's prepared to announce the PS4 you can be sure that no developer will skip that E3.  =D

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

I am okay with this. It gives some of the littler guys a moment to shine whereas they would get clouted by the marketing budget and hype of a game from one of these studios.

Vickman178
Vickman178

Nintendo still thinks its relevant...hell they've been holding back every piece of info about the Wii U until now.

 

What the people at E3 should be doing is letting non journalists join the show LIKE IT USED TO BE! They complained there was too many people blah blah! Just give out a certain number of tickets you fools but give a chance for regular gamers to attend the show again!

 

All these so called no it all "journalists" who write irrelevant articles like this one shouldn't be the only ones attending!

ahpuck
ahpuck

 You know what else is ruining E3? Nosey reporters. There are no more surprises coming out during E3, most people already know everything there is to know beforehand, so what's the point of even bothering with the event?

Majkic666
Majkic666

Well yeah its sad, the Reason Blizzard isn't coming is because they are greedy and want all the money from everyone that comes, that's why they go Blizzcon, hich is a meaningless EXPO since they only have 3 Game Series

CTM161
CTM161

 @wwlettsome Your response actually confirms the author's assertions. The reasons you provided for companies like Irrational Games and Bungie not showing are things both companies can afford to do because of their own success. I can't see anything, by your reasoning, why Irrational can't promote Bioshock at E3. If the event is all about capturing people's attention, it should be all for it. Except that, if it isn't because, as you seem to claim, they don't need to spend the time to promote it there...then apparently they don't consider E3 a necessary event to have it promoted. Bungie isn't ready, you say. Except, ready or not, E3 is a huge event. If a company wants their game promoted, they will do it. Except, if, y'know, they don't consider it important because, as the author says, they can promote the game on their own time and still make a splash.

 

As for the rest: Valve and Rockstar don't need to be there? Why? We know about Grand Theft Auto V and, what's Valve working on now, Half-Life 2: Episode III (good grief)? Why not promote them? Well, I could say because Rockstar and Valve, like the examples above, are perfectly capable of promoting those games outside the atmosphere of E3. I'd say you'd agree with that, given what you said. Same goes for Blizzard. "...people are happy to buy the products they are shipping." Why not promote whatever it is they're working on anyways? Shouldn't they need to get the word out? No? Right.

xshadowzz
xshadowzz

 @currican 

 

True. I remember guys like Greg, Jeff and Alex Navarro, when reviews actually seemed like they were written for the consumers by the consumers. When GS was a lot simpler and not racing with IGN...

HeWhoWasHere2
HeWhoWasHere2

 @deadmonkey76 I have lost all respect for Blizzard, never liked Actavision because of their horrible abuse of the CoD franchise.  But Rockstar is one of the big ones that I feel has good releases in comparison.

charlieboy1089
charlieboy1089

 @Petnos Totally agree, but bungie don't make halo anymore, 343 do, but halo is microsoft so halo's always gonna be there whether bungie or 343 attend or not

deadmonkey76
deadmonkey76

 @Gue1 fan boy on crack biggest thing to hit was xbox 360 ps3 was just a blip

HeWhoWasHere2
HeWhoWasHere2

 @ColdfireTrilogy My thoughts exactly, E3 did help some of the giants get where they are now, but without so many of the ones who have gotten bigger it does give the little guys some glimmer.  There is still a large crowd that is very interested in the outcome of E3.

 

Talyab
Talyab

 @Vickman178

 I agree this article was poorly written with the same sentences appearing in almost every paragraph. But E3 does allow non journalists to attend. Many of the  top streamers in the YouTube community have been invited. They are not professionals but many gamers respect their gaming input. E3 recognizes that.

HeWhoWasHere2
HeWhoWasHere2

 @Vickman178 Nintendo is like Diablo 3, it's behind the times.  Microsoft and Sony have superior tech and game libraries.  I personally don't think the Wii U is change anything, unless you live in Japan.

 

Vickman178
Vickman178

 @ahpuck Thats why I ignore these websites until E3 is over then I check up here when its all done.

dude102
dude102

 @Majkic666 They reported every year they did Blizzcon they lost money...

Dieuserpent
Dieuserpent

 @Majkic666 You mean the Blizzcon that they won't be be doing this year even though they could? You know, just to make more money? Because we all know that even with only three (HUGE) franchises and very little infos, they would still be making money out of it. And what did they cancel it for? Because they don't have enough infos and stuff to show off?? They'll only be doing a worldwide championship? MAN! SO GREEDY!

 

Seriously, Let's boycott them! Those assholes! >:(

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

 @0.85505981325 Go back and reread my first sentence and then also consider all the announcements yesterday and whatever Nintendo may have to say today and tell me E3 has to worry about it's relevance. Seems perfectly reasonable that not every developer has to come to E3 every year (Irrational, Bungie, Respawn). If more then a couple major companies start permanently opting out of E3 then it has a relevance problem.

slycatch
slycatch

 @xshadowzz racing with IGN it's not a good thing.. i honestly think most of the things they do, review and show lack spirit or are made by people that don't care about games.

The reason i follow Gamespot is because not all of it is lost!!

CTM161
CTM161

 @wwlettsome Maybe, and I can even agree with that. Mind you, I didn't actually take a stance in my initial response. I was reading what you said and couldn't find anything there to strengthen the opposing argument, and that in fact all I saw was the opposite.

 

However, the author has a point, even if you think he's overstating it. It's something that might be a trend in the future, with this being a warmup. It's true that E3 was created during a time when the video game industry was still (relatively) young and without the sort of checks and regulations other media enjoyed. E3 was an entertainment extravaganza designed to market whatever it was the industry as a whole had to offer because no one in the industry had the clout to do so individually. (Back then, if video games saw recognition in the mainstream, it was through commercials and small ads in mass-market magazines). As far as I understood it, anyone who was anyone showed up at E3.

 

But now? Some of the things the author talks about are true. First-party companies like Nintendo have their own events where they announce stuff. As stated, third parties like Bungie and Valve often make announcements independent of E3. Why? Because they can. They have the clout now. Even with E3 being treated as the same kind of event it always was, this is something they can get away with and not suffer repercussions as far as recognition and observation go. Websites like IGN and Gamespot exist as (mostly) video game journalism. The medium is no longer just considered a toy for kids relegated to gaming magazines as a means to promote to an existing, smaller audience. It's much, much more pervasive.

 

It's upon observing this that it is easy to come to the same conclusion, then, as the author: things are going to change in the future. It really isn't about whether or not E3 will still be relevant, if that is what you are suggesting. E3 will likely remain, and still be important, but its prominence in the video game industry as a whole will diminish. Because with companies like Valve, Rockstar, Bungie, etc. being able to do what they are doing this year, how can one continue to look at E3 as the end-all to be-all of video game marketing?

Outer_Raven
Outer_Raven

Like what happened last time. Oh wait. In Xbox360 games you still have to switch discs right? Yeah, with the PS3 we have blu-ray. And there was something else... oh yeah, you have to pay for online. The PSN may have flaws, but at least it's free.

HeWhoWasHere2
HeWhoWasHere2

 @williebazerka I'm not saying it's a bad game, but for how much time was put into the making of Diablo 3, it could and should have been so much better.  They simplified the game in many ways and graphically it is not up to speed, especially for a PC game.