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Gaming is a busi­ness. There’s a lot of mon­ey involved in putting on E3 and a lot of mon­ey at stake in get­ting the mes­sages a com­pa­ny wants to put out to con­sumers. It’s where you go to cut through the signal-noise and have as big of a chunk of the game buy­ing pub­lic hear about your project as pos­si­ble. Many peo­ple will only expe­ri­ence E3 through main­stream press head­li­nes; so if you think the con­fer­ences can be paired down to three or four head­line grab­bing announce­ments, you’d be right. That’s E3’s entire modus operandi; let off enough expen­sive fire­works in one place to grab the atten­tion of gamers and drown out your com­pe­ti­tion. That’s why we have three days of fever­ish announce­ments and slick cov­er­age.

e3-bus-side-0This year it was Sony who let off the fire­works that peo­ple talked about most: the Final Fantasy 7 remake announce­ment could only real­ly have been one-upped in terms of gam­ing news by the con­fir­ma­tion of the long await­ed Half Life 3. It’s the kind of thing E3 was made for. So was the re-emergence of The Last Guardian and the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter reveal. There is a rea­son com­pa­nies try to play to the crowed as much as pos­si­ble at the­se events and there is a rea­son we see the biggest reveals kept secret and given out all at once at the­se huge press events. E3 is where promis­es are made, hype is gen­er­at­ed and hopes are raised. Where the pact between gamer and mega-corp is renewed and they  promise to tick­le our joy cen­tres in exchange for our hard-earned cash and all of it is done for that fleet­ing moment of uni­ver­sal cov­er­age.

That’s also why we see jour­nal­ists brought so close­ly into the fold; to help max­imise the impact of cov­er­age. This is done in the open and is real­ly the only way the­se press events can func­tion. This isn’t some behind closed doors event in Hawaii, this is the gam­ing press par­tak­ing in their age old con­tract with the games indus­try: to come gape at their shiny baubles. It’s a trade-off that I think jour­nal­ists need to re-balance. I don’t think some­one like Adam “Track-7-on-Eric-Clapton’s-Greatest-Hits” Sessler can cov­er Bethesda prod­ucts after he was paid to host their con­fer­ence. It’s the job of the AAA publisher’s PR teams to woo and bribe the gam­ing press and it’s the job of the gam­ing press to stare at them cyn­i­cal­ly and pick apart their games. Swag needs to be refused or given away — or at the very least reviewed if it is an ear­ly pro­duct. As long as you can offer some crit­i­cal analy­sis and don’t come home with thou­sands of dol­lars in exclu­sive gifts ready for Ebay stuffed in your suit­case, then I see no real prob­lems with the way E3 runs in regards to the press. The onus in on the press to resist the cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal­i­ty, it’s the same in any indus­try trade show from phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to socks. E3 only cor­rupts the press if the press lets it. You’re a jour­nal­ist; they aren’t using Jedi mind tricks on you. The best games writ­ers will cut through the bull­shit and bring the gamers a real pic­ture of what they can expect in the com­ing year.

e3-bus-side-1E3 is like Christmas mixed with the Superbowl; com­plain­ing about it being “over­ly cor­po­rate” or “too com­mer­cial­ized” is redun­dant. It’s a cor­po­rate trade show put on by the world’s biggest video game pub­lish­ers, who just so hap­pen to be in the world’s largest enter­tain­ment busi­ness, recent­ly con­firmed to be big­ger than music and movies. E3 is a show­case of the most a com­pa­ny can spend on bells and whistles. When that isn’t attempt­ing to bias cov­er­age by just throw­ing a par­ty, the the results can be mes­mer­iz­ing to down­right hilar­i­ous. The best thing about a large com­pa­ny bungling an E3 con­fer­ence with a moment of infinite cringe that will live on in Internet his­to­ry is that they spend mil­lions of dol­lars doing it. All that mar­ket­ing bud­get and gamers still laugh at them. That’s part of the beau­ty of E3: the com­mit­ted gamer isn’t buy­ing most of the window-dressing and is gen­er­al­ly pret­ty good at weed­ing out the non­sense and guff. Microsoft can low­er a car from the celling or JAY-SUN-DA-ROO-LOW can appear at the Ubisoft con­fer­ence and peo­ple mere­ly roll their eyes and ask where the game­play is.

Approaching E3 with the right frame of mind is always advis­able, expect­ing an earnest cel­e­bra­tion of “the art form” is always going to leave you cold. Approach E3 for what it is and not what you want it to be. This isn’t most gamers first rodeo, they know the mar­ket­ing speak and the lofty promis­es are not gospel truth. You are being mar­ket­ed at, that’s the truth of it, and if you are too bit­ter and cyn­i­cal to be able to put that to one side to expe­ri­ence the good parts of E3 then may­be the event isn’t for you. There are plen­ty of oth­er dif­fer­ent events in the gam­ing cal­en­dar. E3 is the top end, the top tier of the AAA, the pin­na­cle of the slick mar­ket­ing machine. That’s the point.


The large pub­lish­ers and con­sole man­u­fac­tur­ers want to con­trol what PR mes­sage gets out about their prod­ucts, the con­fer­ences them­selves have most of the rough edges smoothed off, when you’re deal­ing with the­se amounts of mon­ey no one wants to take any risks. This is what gives E3 is mir­ror shine but also its dis­tinct lack of charm and soul; it’s a care­ful­ly arranged toy dis­play in a super­store or a beer advert at Super Bowl half-time. E3 is dif­fer­ent than some­thing like PAX, which is a more com­mu­ni­ty based and pub­lic ori­en­tat­ed expo. We already have a huge amount of con­ven­tions that are meant for the pub­lic. Quite right­ly E3 is its own thing — a slight­ly more exclu­sive beast. It’s cer­tain­ly dif­fer­ent than the self fel­lat­ing polit­i­cal cir­cus we’ve seen at events like GDC late­ly; E3 2015 was a dec­la­ra­tion that busi­ness would surge on despite the angry cries from the press peanut-gallery about “mak­ing art” and “for­ward­ing social jus­tice.” I can’t state it enough: I know some of you don’t like it, but we live in an almost pure­ly cap­i­tal­ist world and the only way the games you love get made is with large sums of mon­ey chang­ing hands. The Final Fantasy 7 remake is due to mar­ket pres­sure and audi­ence demand. Large com­pa­nies only invest mil­lions in the tech­ni­cal mar­vels we love to play if they think they are at least going to get their invest­ment back. There is too much mon­ey on the table.

For all its lav­ish eccen­tric­i­ties, I like E3. Judging by the recep­tion, hype and view­er­ship the event gets, so do a mas­sive chunk of the gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty.  As long as you are aware that it is one giant advert and take most of it with a pinch of salt you can have fun -– and I had a lot of fun with E3 this year. We mar­vel at it, cringe at it and go bananas at it in equal mea­sure. It’s a big, dumb, loud light-show, and I wouldn’t have it any oth­er way.

https://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/e3-bus-header.pnghttps://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/e3-bus-header-150x150.pngJohn SweeneyOpinionE3 2015Gaming is a busi­ness. There’s a lot of mon­ey involved in putting on E3 and a lot of mon­ey at stake in get­ting the mes­sages a com­pa­ny wants to put out to con­sumers. It’s where you go to cut through the signal-noise and have as big of a chunk…
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­ri­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­i­ty but always hope­ful for change.