This year E3 will open it's doors, not just to industry and press, but 15,000 of the game industry adoring public. It's a dream come true to many to be able to go to E3. It's gaming Mecca. It's where all the cool kids hang out, the most exciting announcements occur and the coolest tech is on show. E3 is the pinnacle and now you can climb it too... sort of, not really at all actually. Here's why.
E3 is a funny old event. It's not a PAX or a Comiccon with cosplayers strutting their stuff and shiny-eyed developers flagging you down to try out their new baby. E3 is as much a bunch of suits prowling around trying to find a supplier for game cases as it is brand new IPs flashing up on screens. It's wobbly tech demos on laptops in tiny overheated meeting rooms as much as it's huge interactive booths. E3 isn't a typical consumer event.
The unfortunate realisation I've come to is this: You won't see anything at E3 as non-industry that you won't see on a screen from the comfort of your own home. Yes, there's something to be said for being there and getting hands-on, but there's also something to be said for 6 hour queues for Breath Of The Wild last year. It's also worth bearing in mind that last year we only saw maybe a thousand or so non-industry attendees to pull those kind of queue times. Multiply that by a factor of 15 and a lack of any further space and we already arrive at a problem for the public access areas.
Speaking of public access, allow me to share with you a quick picture I threw together when the public passes were announced earlier in the year. Please forgive my expertise in Paint from intimidating your elsewise modest skills.
As you can see, there's a lot already there that's not fully for public consumption. You have one hall devoted to flashy booths and bright lights that really has a typical convention feel to it, great for the public. The other hall has a few of those flashy booths in there but the majority of things there are either tiny meeting booths, smaller niche products or industry supply stands for the most part. There's very little to see as a member of the public.
This goes without mentioning the meeting rooms that are popped in between the halls and the entire upper floor which is industry access only. This is where all the magic happens. Cool closed-door theatres, niche tech, early demos of cool games and guys in cool suits making deals. That's a big chunk of the stuff on show that the public will barely be aware of being there, let alone get access to.
Why am I whining about all of this? Well firstly, people are buying into 'the E3 experience'. What I've described above hopefully demonstrates that they won't really receive the experience they dreamed about as a kid. Hell, the experience I dreamed about and am lucky enough to experience year after year. Most of the cool stuff locked away, no access to conferences and no real way of reaching anyone senior in most companies. Even if you are a smaller sized content creator (not applicable for a media pass), this isn't where you'll make your contacts as the contacts you'll want to make will be booked up and locked into a meeting room all week.
Secondly, and this is where the cries of entitlement begin, this will make my job really, really hard. E3 is hell to navigate around. You're in a rush between meetings and are constantly battling a heaving tide of people all rushing to theirs. To cross a hall, expect to schedule in 5-10 minutes to get through the masses on a normal year. There are camera crews prowling and people trundling those horrific briefcase-cum-suitcase things around tripping everyone over, it's rough. From all reports, the only event to rival it for crowding in this field is Gamescom.
Now, add onto this 15,000 additional people there to check out the sights and sounds. They want to see everything and drink it all in and good on them! Unfortunately, that turns it all into the horror of your favourite big city tourist trap during a school holiday at noon. A whirlwind of selfie sticks, people who are too busy looking elsewhere to check where they're going and a general unwilling to move faster than a shuffle.
Now, I don't blame these folks for wanting to be tourists. They are tourists! However, it makes it near impossible to do my job. I can't make it to meetings or easily film my footage with a mass of bodies clogging up the pathways and walking into shots. In fact, while filming at EGX one year (a public access event in the UK), I very nearly accidentally garroted someone with my microphone lead due to them walking through without noticing the camera or lighting.
Polygon actually posted an article around this earlier in the month and I can't disagree more. They cite the fact that other events run as public access and this provides exposure via more avenues such as Youtubers and Twitch streamers. This is entirely incorrect as anyone with a reasonably sizeable community would qualify for a media pass. These folks absolutely should attend as they will have the ability to make the meetings and create the content to have a wide-reaching impact.
I'll give you an example around this. Senshudo isn't a huge media outlet. We aren't exactly IGN here, right? However, we get a few hundred thousand eyes on the site per month, ignoring additional social media reach, Twitch, Youtube etc, just for the website. Three of us attend each year and expose the cool stuff at E3 to say 300,000 sets of eyes. Someone attending as a member of the public will expose less of the content across the expo (due to access) to a significantly lower number of people, which I'm estimating to be 10 or less. I'm basing that off of the age old 'power of 10' theory of good experiences which is available to read up about at a Google near you.
If my incredibly hasty maths are correct, we have the ability to expose E3's content to double the number of people as the entirety of the paying public in attendance. Now we're hardly the only media outlet in attendence or the only ones likely to encounter the issues I've mentioned here. If we miss appointments, we miss exposure measuring potentially into the thousands per outlet. That's not good for the industry or for the hard-working folks who have turned up to show off their goods.
So that's my take. I don't believe this is a good move for the industry. I think E3 was the last place where folks could easily and conveniently set up roadmaps for the entire year between any number of companies. I know it's not going to be entirely broken up by this, but the effectiveness will drop and that's not helpful for anyone. Mostly I feel sorry for the folks paying for an experience that can't and won't deliver in the same way as I experience it. I wish everyone got that chance, it's a fantastic buzz and life experience, but there is a reasonably hard limit on how much room there is to expand there.
I invite you to disagree with me. Call me a self-entitled idiot or tell me where I've gotten my wires crossed here. I honestly welcome any of you to discuss this with me in either the comments below or via Twitter @Squallmuzza. As it is, the only positive upswing I can see here is E3's bottom line and I feel that everyone else in the picture is unfortunately losing out somewhere along the line.