E3 2013 Impressions: Quieter, less diverse and console-dominated
The Electronics Entertainment Expo. Probably the largest video game fair in North America. Historically known for its controversial proportions on the show floor, high decibal values and standing babies.
I distinctly remember my first time in years past, stepping over the threshold and into the blinding lights, blaring music, and scores of dozens of women in bikinis handing out the swag of oversized booths. People moving like a swarm of bees that I had to brave if I wanted to see this one title from this one developer for fear of never seeing it again (at least until release day).
I remember spending countless hours sketching out an E3 attack plan because if I didn’t, I couldn’t possibly cover the entire event in a meager three days. Every morning, after only a few hours of sleep, I strategically stuffed painkillers in various places on my body and in my backpack to combat the foot, lower back, leg, and headaches that I would suffer from by the end of the year Day. I fight with other journalists for space to connect my dying laptop, to type articles at lightning speed, to be the “first” on the internet. I drink gallons of coffee and caffeine soda to give myself enough energy to rush to the next booth and chat with Rockstar developers about their beautiful games.
This is the E3 I remember, the E3 I “grew up” in, the E3 where I lost my journalistic virginity when I was just starting out in this industry. But this isn’t this year’s E3, which is more like sipping tea and chatting nice with the ladies in the garden.
Allow me to dig deeper…
The exhibition space seemed pretty empty this year compared to previous years. Probably due to the fact that a great many developers choose to do closed-door affairs. One thing to note was the overwhelming amount of what seemed to me average Joe gamers (aka the public) compared to the amount of actual industry professionals. One of the benchmarks I use as a comparison tool is that the media hospitality suite, which is normally inundated with video game journalists writing about the latest and greatest games, has now become something of a ghost town.
Perhaps it’s the fact that many members of the press are either on the exhibition floor or writing their articles from the comfort of their hotel rooms. Or, more likely, that E3 is no longer the golden child of video game shows and hot bed for activities that it once was.
As usual, the greats of the product presentation were there. By far the largest booth was Sony with a number of lines of PS4s that were mature and ready to be tested by many industry professionals. Right next door and almost wrapped in Sony’s cocooned embrace was Microsoft, also showcasing its latest product, the Xbox One.
I can’t explain the lack of presence from other big show players, other than that I think most studios have opted for the less expensive meeting rooms, rather than the larger, over-the-top showfloor extravaganza that E3 has had in years past. Maybe it’s price and budget, which of course is understandable considering everything is expensive in Los Angeles. I know that, I live here.
I’ve noticed a lot more closed booths where you had to register with a developer’s PR pros to be scheduled for a one-on-one demo. This is different from previous events and makes me wonder if the ESA has stopped cracking down on the “industry professional” requirement, requiring the developers to oversee this themselves to get their titles straight to the media professional.
I’ve also noticed a significant amount of booth sharing. One notable studio was NCSoft, the brilliant creators of great titles like Lineage, Guild Wars, City of Heroes, and the newest addition, WildStar. In previous years they were arguably one of the biggest exhibitors at E3, but this year they didn’t have a show, at least within the confines of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Rumor has it that Carbine Studios, NCSoft’s WildStar development house, had an outside meeting room where they showcased a playable version of WildStar. I’ve never been there, but a colleague did and said that’s to be expected if Carbine had a booth onsite in one of the meeting rooms.
Consoles, consoles, consoles
I previously said that Xbox and Playstation had the largest booths in the convention floor. It’s understandable that these two exhibitors are the biggest considering they are both releasing their latest products this year. Based on this small fact, I believe that PC games didn’t garner as much attention this year as other games that were supposedly playable on PS4 and Xbox One.
That is, apart from one. UbiSoft. While showing off their console titles, they took the opportunity to showcase Watch_Dogs, an open-world action-adventure game that brings players together across multiple platforms. The graphics were beyond beautiful and in certain places difficult to distinguish from what we would see in the real world.
PC games just didn’t seem to get the love they deserve at an event meant to span all platforms. I missed that, and I suppose it’s safe to assume that all the big titles will also be coming to PC, but with such a big emphasis on consoles at one of the biggest trade shows in North America, I’m wondering if game developers will be seeing one on falling behind the PC market and actively pushing their titles to consoles. I don’t think PC gaming is dead, but I think some people do; People in high positions, decision makers and things like that scare me. I just hope that this year’s E3 is a godsend and that next year takes us back to where it used to be.
Overall, I still had a lot of fun in the exhibition space, but the expo has shrunk considerably compared to the “old days” when studios decided to put promotional wraps on buses (pointing to you, Dark Souls II). and pay for the smaller meeting rooms instead of overly large exhibition stands.
Whether this is due to the budget costs of the development studios or the fact that there are other professional events around the country that people can attend, I’m not sure. Still, it was fun to be in an environment geared towards the overwhelming number of video game professionals.
I really hope that this year’s E3 focus on consoles is just because the two biggest competitors are releasing their gaming systems at the end of the year, and no more to deprive industry professionals of an opportunity to see these games in action once (apart from GamesCom) to open the doors to the public is a crime against humanity! Okay, that might have been a bit dramatic, but please, if you’ve never seen The Mutaytor on stage and you’ve shredded your eardrums in the NCSoft booth, then you haven’t lived life.
For more impressions from E3 2013, listen to Deirdre’s guest appearance on the IncGamers E3 Podcast Special and see more of her work over at Torwars.com. More photos of the exhibition area can be found here.