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Farewell to E3 as we knew it, the Super Bowl of our video game fandom

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By now, we’ve all read about the effective demise of E3, the electronic entertainment expo that blacked out a week on serious video game fans’ calendars every June for the past 27 years. I doubt I’m the only person who’s ever told a friend, sibling, or cousin that I couldn’t do a family function because, well, I had to cover E3, the Super Bowl of the business I’m in.

It was an insider’s event, to be sure; The Entertainment Software Association came very late to the idea of ​​giving access to the general public, and eventually did so only in limited numbers. Then the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed what was left. But as much has been written about it – and not just by writers like me; i mean the dedicated fans in the forums social mediaAnd the pinwheeling chat that accompanied the YouTube stream — the news that E3 won’t be 2023, either—really sounds like the World Series has been canceled.

It was not sudden death; E3 had been languishing in redundancy, if not irrelevance, for the past four or five years. The ESA struggled to manage the defections of its largest members going back to 2013, when Nintendo decided to use a traditional pre-E3 event to devote its efforts to the shorter, recorded Nintendo Direct broadcasts that began in 2011. The pomp and production of a live news conference was abandoned. a format that peers copy today. It is just a matter of changing times.

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Today, people who market and sell video games can make their pitches directly to customers, rather than through retail gatekeepers or other middlemen, through avenues like Twitch and YouTube. And they can do it for pennies on the dollar compared to buying and setting up the elaborate booths that marked the heyday of E3.

In its heyday, E3 wasn’t really a channel for consumers; It was a channel for bargain hunters, retail buyers, and those who at once spent the most money and carried the most product. Sure, there were always fan-driven, consumer-oriented galleys running the news in Los Angeles. But the most important of them were held off-site and preceded the conference itself; E3 was actually an expo from Tuesday to Thursday, even though it looks like it started the Saturday before.

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Publishers and platform holders still rented office space and private conference rooms atop the South Hall, where they talked to the likes of GameStop, Walmart and Best Buy about stocking their shelves for the coming holiday season . That was the real point of E3 – it was a trade show, after all.

But over the past decade, game sales have steadily expanded online and to publishers’ marketplaces — not just the PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store, and Nintendo eShop, but also Ubisoft Connect, EA’s Origin, and of course, Steam (and Valve) at E3. hardly ever had an appearance). Hobbies and relationship-building, connecting up-and-coming developers and their projects with publishers? It relies on industry functions like the Game Developers Conference to broker those partnerships now.

Still, the old-school, get-together, personal nature of E3 had value. In sports writing, there’s a longstanding tradition of going into the locker room to confront the guys you cut in print. E3 That was the locker room. It reminded me that real people dedicate years of their lives for my enjoyment and also for my readers. Having lost that connection, I feel as though my complaints are petty, my speculations less informed. We do a lot of virtual preview events these days, and while I’m grateful for the chance to not only play a game in development, but to play it in my own home, where I’ll actually play once it launches, it No. It’s like going into a publisher’s booth – much less playing a series like FIFA with its executive producer and telling him how bad I really am at it.

I will miss E3, even though I last covered it in person in 2014. It was the one thing I did that family and friends in the industry would ask me about. I really made friends there — people I’d only known online, or as a byline in a peer publication — and it was really heartwarming to meet them in person. We could do Nintendo Direct, PlayStation State of Play, Developer Diary all day long; Nothing can replace that personal connection to the expo.

Snoop Dogg in a red tracksuit outside the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles

Snoop Dogg performs at a pop-up concert outside the Nokia Theater in Downtown Los Angeles during E3 2013.
Photo: Michael Tran/Filmmagic/Getty Images

My favorite memory from the Los Angeles Convention Center was at the EA Sports booth in 2011. publisher was showing NCAA Football 12, which will launch next month. It was fully cooked and previewed, a known quantity; There was not to be a big reveal. But I was there shooting the breeze with the developers at EA Tiburon when I was politely pushed out of the way by a very strong gentleman who used to lead Snoop Dogg’s security detail. Snoop Stride sat down with producer Ben Haumiller to watch the game, and pit his beloved USC Trojans against Ben, who was playing as Oregon. And Ben absolutely smoked him.

It’s the kind of thing that only happened at E3, but it’s also the kind of thing that hasn’t happened in the last five or six years. And now this will never happen again.

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