Pour one out for the trade show; E3 is gone. GGWP.
As a young adult, I dreamed of attending an E3, seeing cutting-edge technology, playing the latest games, and schmoozing with people who inspired me to make my voice heard. Even now, it gives me goosebumps. I know a lot of writers, content creators, and influencers with similar stories. Unfortunately, on December 12th, 2023, the ESA shared a short post saying, "That's all folks!" We're here to eulogize E3, the now-late and formerly-great video game trade show.
For those unfamiliar with the industry, we’re here to mourn the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or as it was typically known: E3. Originally, and foremost, it was an industry-only trade show meant to serve as a way for games, technology, and video game-focused news to be readily available for the media and investors. It was the most prominent and formidable game convention. The keyword here: Was.
For many people, E3 was a dream come true.
I wasn't much older than my youngest son when I first read about a big convention in California where all these people would see new games, consoles, and more. I was excited to see more info on the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn.
Sony ended up pulling out, and Sega did as well, but the publicity was excellent for Nintendo. Pictures in magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly showed off busy floors filled with TVs and industry folk.
Over a decade later, I boarded a plane from Tampa, Florida, to Los Angeles, California. One of the biggest reasons I initially helped found a successful gaming blog was to get that E3 invite, and I made it happen.
My first E3 was a whirlwind. Nintendo announced a new console, but the delivery was confusing at best. PlayStation and Xbox were at each other’s throats with dueling booths. When I first entered the LA Convention Center for the first time and looked over the area, I got a little teary-eyed.
Four more E3s came and went for me over the next decade. I met personal heroes like Adam Sessler, James Stephanie Sterling, and Dan Rykert. The show grew year over year, as did my experience and role in the industry.
Heck, one E3, I began interviewing for a job at Bethesda. It didn’t go anywhere, but E3 was such a wild event that things like that happened. Another E3, after my youngest brother passed, I honored a promise I made to bring him to the show by carrying his ashes with me. I lost all my luggage on that trip, but it was still cathartic.
Time waits for no one, even trade shows.
I tell you this story because, for the last 28 years, E3 has been more than a gaming convention for so many people. E3 was that time of the year when people took a few days off of work and watched G4TV, video streams online, and/or YouTube videos of the latest announcements.
Press worked tirelessly to get their hands on the biggest and hottest games or try to find that next diamond in the rough. It was a time of excitement, and if just for a moment, nothing else really mattered.
My last E3 visit in person was the first year that E3 opened its doors to the public. While media professionals weren’t super keen on it, it was neat to see people get the chance to experience the event that had that same dream I had when I was a kid. Many more meetings were off the show floor, so the opportunity to soak in all the fanfare was missed.
The ESA (Entertainment Software Association), E3’s governing body, made the change so they could try to keep the convention more relevant and make some additional money. E3 had competition from shows like the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), the Tokyo Games Show, and their long-term competitor, Gamescom. PAX was the only show that was open to the public, though.
Unfortunately, E3 going public meant lines were much longer, and in most cases, if you didn’t have an appointment, a press member wouldn’t accidentally stumble onto the next hit game. From what I gathered, it also became much more expensive for companies to get a spot on the show floor, and more prominent names like EA, Sony and Nintendo all started to leave.
Smaller companies just started booking appointments at local hotels instead of the busy show floor. Realistically, it was the beginning of the end. Still, for at least that week in June, E3 was nearly always the talk of the town.
My last E3 was the first and only online E3. It was set up over Discord and was, well, really bad. Meetings were emails or breakout rooms online where you watched some gameplay. In best-case scenarios, you got an early demo to play. At this point, the show couldn’t happen live due to the COVID-19 pandemic; honestly, The Game Awards had stolen an absolute ton of the announcement limelight. The world changed, and the ESA didn’t (or couldn’t) keep up.
Every ending is another beginning.
The death of E3 is a bittersweet reminder that the industry itself is constantly evolving. You don’t have to gather thousands of people to get the word out about new projects. Print media has gone from a primary way to gather info to an afterthought, and short-form content like TikTok is bigger than ever. The ESA and, by proxy, E3 just couldn’t keep up the momentum.
However, it isn’t a bunch of doom and gloom. The passing of E3 shows that PAX will become more critical. Gamescom will inherit E3’s remaining relevance, and publishers will continue directly marketing online.
The death of old dreams makes way for new ones. I’d love to attend Gamescom one year and bring at least one of my kids. If not that, at the very least, PAX. The industry will continue to ebb and flow, and there will be a new focus for making further announcements. Right now, that vehicle is The Game Awards.
With all of this being said, pour out a Bawls Guarana for E3. We may mourn its passing, but we can still look forward to the future and all the cool stuff we’ll eventually see and play from whatever rises from the ashes of E3!