Because of my work –not this, which is a hobby- I have to be part of the staff that participates in exhibitions. Those of the union to which the company in which I work belongs, of course, in this case it is the mining, industrial security and hardware sector.
They are not exhibitions for the general public, although anyone is free to go. They are places where companies of the same activity participate and take advantage to generate business and create commercial relationships or at least start them. The E3 was born to be that. An exhibition where developers, distributors and people from the media came together to show advances in their upcoming technologies, video games in the pipeline, balance sheets and forecasts for the following year. This was the case for a good part of the 90s and while a telecast was not possible, much less a stream.
After 2000, E3 took a more popular path and began to turn its Electronic Entertainment Expo into something closer to a Hobby Convention. Although the commercial and business practice continued to exist, there also began to be more open to the gaming public. In fact, to date, E3 takes place over four days, of which only two are open to the general public.
The golden age, FOR ME, of E3 was lived between the seventh and eighth generation of consoles. The friendly war between Sony and Microsoft, with Nintendo in the neighborhood, was settled in battles of launches, hype, trailers, and super luxury consoles. It was around this time that developers and some figures achieved media star status. Characters like Gabe Newell, Phil Spencer, Kojima, Miyamoto, Fils-Aimé and many others who were already super well known but not of that caliber. It was also a time in which the realism of the triple A tanks and their huge budgets managed to attract Hollywood actors to do voice acting and put the body to their digital avatars and of course also participate in E3 presenting trailers or chatting.
The business was so interesting that even many media managed to grow thanks to the coverage of the event.
And that’s why, in part, it’s a bit of a shame that it’s in decline.
Since before the quarantine there were signs of premature death. Large distributors and developers canceling their participation or sending a promotional video. Big like Nintendo and Sony putting together their private events (Nintendo Directs and the Playstation Sony Experience). Then Microsoft with the Showcases. The reasons for this are varied. Mainly putting the focus on a t-shirt.
It is very simple. The sense of belonging is very human. Just as it is unlikely that we will get another soccer team, it is also rare for the gamer to change his vice system. At least not where E3 is. Given that necessity has the face of a heretic and that we are not all foolish, where money is not enough it is usually less rare for someone to switch from Playstation to XBOX. But this is also the case because Microsoft DECIDED to lose a lot of money to achieve a market that is still largely elusive. The Argentine continues to buy Playstation (and to a lesser extent Nintendo Switches) even though he goes against all financial logic.
Going back to E3, many companies decided to focus on particular events or streams of their products instead of participating in an event they were going to “compete” with.
In the past I have discussed with many people in the media about the axiom “WIN E3”. I have expressed it in some writing even because opinions sometimes have to be sealed in marble so that they have value. In capitalist systems, companies compete. They also agree to embezzle the individual consumer, but mainly they compete. When they compete, they do so in the arena, which is the market that is accessed through the product but at the same time in the place where that product can be displayed. The marketing budget sometimes exceeds that of product development. That’s how important it is. So of course they were going to compete at E3. And of course they were going to WIN. Having a presentation full of video games that feed the hype of the press and consumers was (and is) important not because of that improbable change of shirt, but for what it means in the “war” of companies and the sense of belonging that it generates in the fans. This creates two situations: a strong loyalty (word clearly of a business nature) in the fan consumer who feels protective of the brand, and the seed of a choice in the one who is not a fan consumer or who is not even a consumer yet.
Let’s suppose a person who was 15 years old in 2000 and thanks to his PS1 was able to play final fantasy 7 and be happy. Then she grew up, joined the work force, got together as a couple and lived together. All of this consumed her gaming time, which was not her main hobby either. Suppose that in 2015, fooling around, she streamed E3, watched Sony’s presentation, and marveled at the revelation of the remake of that video game that had blown her brains out in her teens. That person, who the industry recognizes as only potential, has just made a decision. It is not done by individuals of course, but by groups. But he wanted to illustrate the question of winning or losing. Whoever thinks that such an event cannot be won is fighting against concepts of capital that are not even otherwise.
And consumers like us, happy, because we saw multimillion-dollar companies “battle” for us. It wasn’t real, and it wasn’t important. But they did, and they made the event relevant.
When gaming became widespread (well) an inertia was generated that the numbers are no longer so clear. Marketing is there but not for the undecided, but for those obsessed with a crack that never existed and does not exist because we all try to own what we have access to. The sense of belonging is a falsehood that the average gamer is forced to believe because everything is not at their fingertips.
At E3, companies nurtured that membership because -in principle- it was totally innocent. When it stopped being a business, E3 died.
Someone can refute me that Geoff’s events are still going on and they have some truth. It certainly gives the impression that marketing and economic reasons aside, there is some unclear bill pass to the Entertainment Software Association.
It will not be the same.