Feature Article

E3 2019: Show Will Be Different This Year; Here's What It Means

The Electronic Entertainment Expo rolls on, more than two decades after its inception.

E3 continues to be a major showcase for the video game industry, despite its diminished role over the past few years. The show is currently in a state of upheaval, as an increasing number of companies have either distanced themselves from it (like Electronic Arts, which opts to hold its EA Play event) or removed themselves entirely (like PlayStation, which has no E3 press conference this year). You may be wondering how we got to this point. Well, it's quite a long story.

In the '90s, gaming was without a major event of its own; in place of such a thing, developers had a presence at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). But May 1995 saw the debut of gaming's own industry trade show in the form of E3. It was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, a site that has served as the home for the vast majority of the show's existence. Until recent years, E3 has been closed completely to the public, serving instead as a meeting place for members of the industry and press, along with retailers. That distinction was reflected in its attendance: Even at its peak, E3 paled in comparison to the sheer size of something like Germany's Gamescom, which is open to the public.

Press conferences held in the days prior to E3 have long served as the preeminent place for making announcements and revealing games. E3 has been home to the unveiling of major games and hardware over the past two decades. Despite the existence of other major events, like Gamescom and the Tokyo Game Show, it's traditionally been E3 that publishers save their biggest news for.

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But the last decade-plus has proven to be challenging, as the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the industry's trade association that organizes E3, tries to figure out exactly what the show should be. From 2007-2008, it downsized the event significantly to what was known as the E3 Media and Business Summit. 2009 saw the event revert back to something closer to its former self, and more recent years have seen an increasing amount of access granted to members of the public, who had previously been unable to attend. To some degree, it's muddled the purpose of the show; E3 is in something of an awkward middle ground now where it's expected to simultaneously fulfill its prior role and serve as a fan event. Whereas a show like Gamescom has a day open only to industry members and the press, E3 does not. Instead, it has a few hours during the first two of its three days where the doors are not open to the public. Meanwhile, for members of the public that do attend, the reality often amounts to standing in very long lines and watching the press conferences online like those at home. It's not really ideal for anyone.

Further complicating the purpose of E3 have been various shifts in how the industry works. Free-to-play games, games as a service, and longer console generations, combined with companies' ability to showcase their wares through events like PlayStation Experience and Nintendo Direct, have called into question whether an event like E3, conceived during a much different era of video games, continues to be the best use of resources.

Case in point: Sony, which has typically had one of the largest presences at E3 and was responsible for one of its most significant press conferences, has opted out of E3 2019 entirely. This move comes after Sony's atypical 2018 showing, which was criticized by some for the fact that it focused almost exclusively on four upcoming PS4 games, rather than the much wider slate we'd usually see.

Explaining the rationale behind its decision not to attend E3 2019, Sony told GameSpot last year, "As the industry evolves, Sony Interactive Entertainment continues to look for inventive opportunities to engage the community. PlayStation fans mean the world to us and we always want to innovate, think differently and experiment with new ways to delight gamers. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019. We are exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019 and can't wait to share our plans with you."

Subsequently, Sony Worldwide Studios head Shawn Layden expanded even further on the diminished role E3 serves. "Now we have an event in February called Destination PlayStation, where we bring all retailers and third-party partners to come hear the story for the year," he said. "They're making purchasing discussions in February. June, now, is just too late to have a Christmas holiday discussion with retailers. So retail has really dropped off. And journalists now, with the internet and the fact that 24/7 there is game news, it's lost its impact around that."

"So the trade show became a trade show without a lot of trade activity. The world has changed, but E3 hasn't necessarily changed with it," he added.

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It remains to be seen what Sony's plans for "new and familiar ways to engage" fans will look like. While it's unusual for one of the three console manufacturers to not be at E3, some of the industry's major publishers already sit it out. Rockstar doesn't attend E3 in a public capacity, only having a presence during Microsoft or Sony press conferences when it has a game to showcase. Activision has already pulled out of E3 2019, though we do know that this year's Call of Duty game will be discussed at the E3 Coliseum. This is a series of panels and discussions hosted by Geoff Keighley that anyone at E3 can attend. While it's by no means equivalent to the various publishers' press conferences, the Coliseum is home to some reveals and--as it's open to fans at the show--feels like E3 continuing to try to figure out what it is in the modern day.

It's not as if all of the major players have dropped out, however. Microsoft has pledged to "go big" at E3 2019. Nintendo will also be in there in a similar capacity to recent years, although it continues to use pre-recorded Nintendo Direct events rather than the live press conference it held in the past. Microsoft continues to go the live route, while EA has exited E3 and launched an event that takes place in the days prior. Other companies--including Bethesda and Square Enix--have stepped in to fill that gap with their own E3 briefings, alongside smaller publishers like Devolver. There's also the possibility for Google, which is entering the industry with Stadia, to have an EA Play-style showcase around the time of E3, although it doesn't appear that will come during E3 proper.

We don't yet know what the future of E3 looks like. The ESA has faced its own issues, as detailed in a recent Variety report. Since that story was published, the group has named a new CEO, Stanley Pierre-Louis, who has spoken enthusiastically about E3. But he'll be faced with addressing questions of whether the group that lobbies on behalf of the games industry in Washington should also be in charge of organizing a continually evolving trade show.

E3 could have been facing a significant change as soon as next year; E3 2019 had been the last show confirmed for the LACC, but that deal has since been extended to 2023, so we won't see it moving to a different venue or city for at least a few more years. In the meantime, more companies could decide to drop out, as they decide the cost and trouble isn't worth it--keep in mind, it's not cheap to put on an E3 show, not to mention the impact it has on development as studios are forced to divert resources toward creating demos, trailers, and so on. And there are now more options than ever for sharing news, including the annual PSX and The Game Awards; Sony and Microsoft testing the waters with their own Nintendo Direct-style broadcasts throughout the year; and a new show in August from The Game Awards organizers called Gamescom: Opening Night Live. As a result, companies have more flexibility than ever to showcase their games when they're ready to do so, rather than forcing an E3 demo or trailer out the door in June, regardless of when it would make the most sense to do so.

Only time will tell what future E3s will look like or how long it will continue to exist, but in the meantime, stick around GameSpot for in-depth coverage of whatever this year's show brings, and check out the video above for a deep dive into the history of E3.

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Now Playing: The History Of E3

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mrblondex

Chris Pereira

Chris Pereira is GameSpot's engagement editor. He likes Twin Peaks, The X-Files (before it was bad), and serial commas.

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Chippiez

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Japan is the light in gaming right now. I'll trust in Sony. Xbox showed garbage.

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WarFox89

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what an amazing fan-boys war here ...

peasants

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XenomorphAlien

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Nothing will replace E3 for me. For like 3-4 days we get to see a plethora of new announcements and bombshells. Most exciting time to be a gamer if you ask me, and I fail to see anything that will rival it.

Sony skipping E3 this year means nothing, it's clear they've shown everything for this gen at this point and will just opt for a State of Play because they have too little to talk about. They'll be back next year, but it sucks they won't be here.

As for EA, who really cares? lol

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rafoca

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It's simple: Sony has nothing to show. Microsoft have lots to show, but we won't be playing those games anytime soon, except for Halo and Gears.

I'm sad Sony isn't there. As for EA and other developers, I won't miss their conferences, honestly

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SkyHighGam3r

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Edited By SkyHighGam3r

I just loved how it was all at the same time. I mean... E3 has been better than Christmas for like a decade. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony showing all their cards. How could it ever be better than that?

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Guy_Brohski

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I wanna see Gears 5 and Halo Infinite. Also Forza Motorsport 8 with online tournaments will be sick.

E3 Microsoft to Sony: "Bye Felicia"

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Arkhalipso

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Edited By Arkhalipso

@Guy_Brohski: Gears, Halo and Forza. Yup, that still sounds like Xbox, even after 8 years.

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SkyHighGam3r

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@Arkhalipso: Considering the enourmous amount of money that Microsoft has spent buying up developers, I'd be blown away if we don't see a significant amount of exclusives start to pop up.

I would certainly hope something more interesting than 'gears' and 'halo' ugh. If nothing else at least we know we have Battletoads coming lol.

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Furwings

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Edited By Furwings

E3 has had to change over the years because the industry itself has changed. However, it has established itself as THE show for gamers to tune into every June for over 20 years. This is why as a PlayStation fan I'm very disappointed Sony won't be there this year. And even though we all know that in 2019 the gamers don't have to come to you anymore by gathering in a large theater for a press conference (See Nintendo Direct, Inside Xbox & State of Play), it's still something millions of gamers look forward to every year.

This is also why as an Xbox fan as well, I'm very excited for Microsoft's E3 presser this year! And as a Nintendo fan as well (I know right, all 3?! Blasphemy!) I'm always excited for their E3 Direct.

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cboye18

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No point of having E3 around as it isn't as exciting as it was two generations ago. The lack of AAA games release due to changes within the game industry has been the main cause for this. We have far less game development studio's that produce blockbuster "AAA" games and which take double the development time compared to games made over a decade ago. The few interesting game info being leaked beforehand is just the cherry on top and kills the little hype that E3 may have had.

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flatovercrest

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@cboye18: less games then we had years ago? Seriously? Were we in the same universe? I've been a gamer since the 80s and we absolutely have *way* more games coming out now than ever before ("AAA" or not).

I also don't really understand some gamers obsession with "AAA" games, like they are the only things worth playing. Not to mention the fact that a small indie team game now is often bigger and more polished than a "AAA" title from 10-15 years ago. Heck just off the top of my head Kingdom Come: Deliverance comes to mind. Thats a "indie" studio that put out a game that would have been AAA level just 10 years ago.

Even if no new games ever came out, starting today, id still have far more than I could play in a single lifetime just from what is out right now.

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cboye18

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@flatovercrest: The main event of E3 has always been about showcasing new blockbuster "AAA" games. As much as indie games are loved, AAA games will always be the core of console/PC gaming: it's what get the majority of people excited and to look forward in owning a console and/or PC.

And you seem to be completely unaware of the changes that the gaming industry has undergone the past 10-15 years. Almost all of the games released during the 6th generation (PS2/Xbox/GC/DC) had "AAA" production values for their time, whether good or bad. Developers took many risks as well into making new IP's and sequels.

Flash forward to today and we have far less studio's producing current "AAA" games, which also takes longer to produce and take little to no risks when it comes to either sequels or new IP's. Indie games have risen because of this, but as great as they can be, the majority of them can't provide the production values we expect and crave from current gen. You now have this divide between uncreative/bloated "AAA" games and "cheap" indie games, with only a handful of games having the qualities of both.

How many indie games do we have today with same or better production value of KC: Deliverance? Not much. And it's rather pointless to compare it to AAA production standards of 10 years ago (especially when it comes to polishness; KC: Deliverance's launch was rough and so are the majority of games today).

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PrpleTrtleBuBum

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@cboye18: sad but true.

I miss E3, but then when I think about it the good ones used to have Flatout, Spiderman2, Brothers in Arms, Bard's tale, Mass Effect, Bioshock, Doom 3, Crash Nitro Kart, Banished, World of Warcraft, Halo 3, Gran Turismo, Metal Gear 4.......................................

Now they have like 2% of that level games, plus then a bunch of mobile level isometric adventures or something. And a few games like Cyberpunk that appear year after year. The biggest and arguably only event is a game that won't even be released in some years.

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WickedMuffin

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is it a good idea to attend E3 for small indie developers?

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EV0LVED

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Edited By EV0LVED

This is a huge mistake by Sony. Gamers are smart...most of them...We know a fake politician type bull$h@! PR statement when we see one (see below, or read article).

“We are exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019 and can't wait to share our plans with you. Now we have an event in February called Destination PlayStation!” (Painful to read)

By skipping E3, Sony is planting the seeds of resentment amongst the gaming community. And that, is a dangerous thing. Just ask the Kinect...

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Dilandau88

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I adore E3, but man... that was a lot of cringe.

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Sevenizz

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E3 has been dead for years. I usually watch the Xbox show, and get bullet points on everything else online. Let’s face it, after the big shows, everyone’s blown their load and there’s nothing else to announce. Hell, maybe even prior to E3 officially starting.

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