Illustration: Tara Jacoby
This year – for the first time since 2006 (!!) – I didn’t have to cover E3 for Kotaku, so I had the chance to experience the event as a reader and fan, watching presentations and press conferences for stuff that got me excited, instead of what needed to be written.
It wasn’t great.
I know talking about “the death of E3” and the game writers thinking about the show’s future is as tiring and old as the show itself, so I’ll try to spare you that here. But the only thing that struck me again and once again over the course of the week felt like, this particular year, none of that needed to happen.
E3 has become and remains the premier event of the video game industry due to the immense importance of its topicality. It used to be a small number of massive press conferences, where everyone’s favorite companies revealed their biggest and most exciting releases of the year, all in one place, all at the same time. The weight of these disclosures has diminished over the past decade, however, as more publishers have decided to host their own E3 events, and others like Nintendo and Sony are turning to video presentations or ignoring it altogether. the 3.
We now live in a world where we receive big disclosures all the time, throughout the year, not only at company events like Nintendo Direct videos, but also at an increasing number of events. fan exhibits and minor shows. So the days of E3 worth the excitement that drove it are long gone.
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Muscle memory is a weird thing though, even culturally, and despite everything I’ve just said (and surely you already know deep down) fans keep getting excited about the idea of E3. , if not its diluted reality, and so again in June 2021, millions of people got ready to settle in for a week of events and get excited about new things.
We have not had enough and also too much.
The global Covid-19 pandemic, and its resulting lockups and shutdowns and working from home, has taken its toll on the video game industry. With the closing of offices and access to everything from motion capture to sound recording studios, the development of countless major projects has been stalled. Many games due in 2020 have slipped to 2021, and games due in 2021 have been pushed back to 2022 (or even later!).
And that had a ripple effect on the new games, the real treasure of the E3 experience, as the titles we might have expected to debut on the big stage in 2021 are not yet ready to be shown, or maybe not. even started development as publishers scramble to release their delayed games first.
It is useful here to think of video game development, at least in the larger part of the economy, as a production line in a factory.. Ideas come in, they’re injected with money, art, code, and labor, and ultimately a video game comes out. E3 is where the world sits with gripping hands waiting to see what happens, but over the past 12 months nothing has gone into the machine, and so little comes out of it in the end.
Never before, and maybe never again, will there be so little to show for a year of successful video game development. With human crowds excluded from E3 for the second year in a row, and the big end of the industry trying to work with one hand tied behind their back, it would have been understandable, if not admirable, if E3 had been able to do the job. update on events and just took the gap year. Stick a sign on the door that says “Please understand, things have gone wrong, we will see you again next year!” “
We have so many other shows, and other times, and other ways of talking to the world of video games that we could easily have taken the shrunken stock from 2021, spread it out over other events, and given each business and play some time in the sun of its own.
But that’s not how capitalism works, and E3, being the premier trade show for a billion dollar global industry, is no exception. The machine is never allowed to stop, never. If new games don’t come out, E3 will just show the old ones again. And if the new games aren’t ready to go, publishers will just show what’s ready. Not enough big games to fill all the streaming niches? Just put a bunch of small games in the spotlight and turn them into bigger games with light.
Can you believe that in a year where almost nothing big and new was announced, E3 week consisted of 17 separate shows. 17 shows! Be absolutely screwed. There were traditional big ones left, like the Microsoft + Bethesda storefront, and Nintendo’s was fun, but three video game websites had their own events, and VR had its own show, and a small company that made boxed games. had its own show. .
The onslaught of events created a scenario where just following what was going on, let alone what was being announced, was exhausting. E3 2021 felt like an endless spectacle, and I certainly had to do a lot of work to stay on top for someone who wasn’t paid for it. The math just doesn’t check. In a year when there were very few games we could talk about, have we had more shows and more games than ever before our eyes?
Please note that I won’t blame companies or individual developers here, from big AAA publishers to smaller independent endeavors, because everyone has games to sell and this is still a great way to do it. A diminished E3 is always a huge event for someone trying to sell a video game. As someone who just loves them, though, considering E3 2021 to be a forest and not a bunch of trees, it sucked.
Not because of the games shown, or the lack of games shown, but the format we had to endure. From my perspective, as someone just wanting to experience some cool new video games the same way you used to be, the week as a whole is like butter smeared on too much bread. A whole series of events that were basically “this meeting could have been an email”. There wasn’t a single big reveal that I could have called a “megaton” in the great old E3 lore, and yet it’s going to take me weeks to dig into all the interesting little indie games presented to them. up because too much fucking stuff has been shown.
Maybe next year things will get back to normal, as grim as this normality has become in recent years. Vaccination rates and a return to pre-Covid crowd levels will put gamers back in a sweat and squeeze in live press conference seats, huge crowds will squeeze flesh at the LA Convention Center and developers who have been allowed to coming back to the office will have some great new games to show off once again.
But it certainly would have been nice if, for at least a year, we had been able to realize that things are not always normal.
Article source https://kotaku.com/its-ok-we-could-have-skipped-e3-this-year-1847107812