In this opinion piece, Ben gives his thoughts on why he feels E3 should be a digital event. Security breaches and saving money are just some of the reasons
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Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the author themself, and do not represent the views of Games Bulletin

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, more commonly known as E3, is regarded by many as the gaming event of the year. E3 marks the time of the year that gamers can expect an avalanche of gaming news. Publishers, as well as console makers, hold conferences in LA to showcase new games and trailers. Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Ubisoft. Anyone who was anyone used the stage of E3 to hype up gamers for their upcoming titles. Celebrities even made an appearance from time to time. Keanu Reeves, Snoop Dogg, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, even Robin Williams. E3 seemed unstoppable.

The Beginning Of Change

However, in 2013 Nintendo made the decision to move away from holding press conferences. This year marked the first time Nintendo used pre-recorded video to showcase their games, something which has since become a staple to many gamers. Soon after, others began moving away from E3. In 2016 EA held their own separate event; EA Play. The event, which also happens in LA, happens prior to E3 and is again still going to this day. Last year we also saw Sony drop out of the event. Sony instead uses recorded video and other events to promote their games.

Nintendo were the first to pull away from E3

And then 2020 happened. The world was frozen by the COVID-19 outbreak, and (rightly so) events began being cancelled. E3 was one of those events, and so the discussion began about what to expect. Ubisoft announced Ubisoft Forward, which happened back on July 12th. This was an event very similar to the Nintendo events we are used to seeing. Pre-recorded videos and talks with the devs of the games, as well as gameplay and trailers.

Geoff Keighley, the host of The Game Awards and previously E3, announced Summer Game Fest. Summer Game Fest is an online festival of sorts, spanning from May to August. The event features 16 of gaming’s biggest publishers including Sony, Microsoft, Activision and Bethesda to name a few. The programming will run across all major streaming sites, and demos of games featured will even be made available.

Do We Need A Real Life E3?

All of this begs the question; Why do we need a real-life E3? And to me at least the answer is, we don’t. We live in a digital age, and the gaming industry should be making use of that. As Nintendo, Ubisoft and everyone involved in Summer Games Fest has shown us we don’t need a big stage to deliver news anymore. These large scale conferences are a thing of the past. A homage to a world bygone, when the press reported on news in magazines. Nowadays many sites feature live blog posts, that are updated as the news unveils. Or people watch on sites such as Twitch and get the news directly themselves.

E3 conferences pull in many people and are big spectacles

Now I’m not saying that we as a community should scrap E3 altogether. I still feel like E3 is a big part of the gaming calendar. We just need to look at the way in which we are hosting this event. Firstly, holding public conferences such as this that require tickets comes with its own security risks. Those who wish to attend must give over details, such as their address and contact info. Primarily this was used to allow exhibitors to connect with the press for interviews and the like.

However, in August 2019 a leak was discovered. The personal details of over 2000 journalists were leaked following a website vulnerability on the E3 site. Names, home addresses, email addresses and even phone numbers were made public. Many members of press state that they received harassment due to this leak, something that could’ve been avoided had E3 been hosted as a digital event. By simply holding the event online, the press could write an article or live update blog posts from the comfort of their home without the risk of having their details leaked.

Digital Only = Savings

Another thing we should consider is money. The cost of running a big spectacle conference, in LA, for hundreds of people. Flying over the staff for the event, hiring hotel rooms, hiring the conference hall. All of this surely incurs a lot of cost for the companies involved. Pre-recorded videos are much cheaper to make. While the equipment to film may be expensive initially, once you own that equipment there is no cost afterwards. Not for a while anyway. This saves the company money, something I imagine any business would like to do regardless of size. Now while this saving would more than likely be placed into the pockets of the company executives, there are other ways this money could be spent.

Collector’s Editions of games are highly sought after, and often expensive

For example, some of the money saved could be used to run competitions. Have fans sign up to a newsletter, or pre-order a game through your official site, and they could be entered into a competition to win a collector’s edition of that game. You boost pre-order sales, which AAA studios love, and you get fans excited at the chance of winning. You could tweak this to run all kinds of competitions. Studios could give away 10 collector’s editions of a game and still be nowhere near the amount of money spent on E3. Studios could run pre-recorded video conferences and give away 10 collector’s editions of a game and still be nowhere near the cost of running an E3 conference.

However my personal favourite use of saved money if E3 went digital? Reducing crunch. Now I don’t claim to know how much money is spent on holding a press conference in LA, but I imagine that some of that money could be used to hire some more devs. Increase the team size, decrease the workload of individuals, and reduce crunch. Crunch has never been okay. It has been sadly accepted as an “industry standard” and something that is just part of being a developer. Yet, if publishers and studios stop real-life conferences maybe devs won’t have to work 100 hours a week and sleep at their desks just to keep their jobs.

A digital E3 would mean the loss of the convention floor. This is where gamers can get hands-on experience with the games that have been shown at E3. While I have never been to E3 myself, I am familiar with conventions floor from the times I have visited EGX. EGX is a convention here in the UK, which shows off both AAA and indie games. While the indie games section is often quiet (or at least quieter), the AAA section is where you see the big lines.

The convention floor can get rather crowded, and gamers can be waiting a while to play games

Gamers waiting two or three hours just to play that game for 20 minutes. Just to be booted off so the next group can play. It makes no sense to me. By releasing a demo on to a storefront, gamers can get instant access at the same time and play the game at their own pace however many times they wish. Yes, you can join the line again at a convention, but you’re looking at another two or three hours wait.

I love E3. I love the news, the hype. But the way in which we are doing it, in this day and age, makes no sense. E3 has stopped being about the news, the gamers, and instead has become a dick-swinging competition between AAA studios. E3 should be digital-only. The savings can be passed down to the fans and used to help the devs that pour their blood, sweat and tears into the games which we love so dearly. Demos on a storefront give all gamers access at the same time, with no waits (once the download is complete). Not to mention the ability to play it when they wish and fit it around work schedules. Which once again begs the question; Why wouldn’t E3 go digital?

About the author

I've loved video games for as long as I can remember. Recently found a love for reporting video game news and decided to start Games Bulletin, and have been enjoying every step of the journey.