Extra Consideration

Is E3 Worth It?



For years, the E3 convention was the biggest event in videogames, until it was shuttered in 2007 for the tame E3 Media & Business Summit. Last year, E3 was “back” but is that a good thing? Is a huge expensive show worth it?

imageJames Portnow: First off, I’ve stopped going to E3. It’s a press event, not an industry event. You can’t talk shop and everyone’s got to be ‘on message’ all the time. I rarely even get to catch up with friends there because of the schedule. Personally I dislike it as an event (give me PAX any day) … so that’s an FYI on my personal bias going into this.

So is it worth the money?

It is the one time in the year where we make national news for something other than ‘corrupting the youth’. So in that sense, maybe. Unfortunately the event tends to be filled with stunts that misrepresent the industry and undersell the medium, which makes the coverage of dubious value.

I can’t help making the PAX comparison here, because PAX gives so much more back to the community. I feel like the exclusivity of this event hurts it and leaves it as simply a chance for companies to spoon feed marketing announcements to journalists rather than an opportunity to gauge the gaming community at large. This could lead me to a brief diatribe about journalism vs. reporting and how much of our media claims to be one while being the other (or claims to be journalists while actually being commentators) and how I don’t think I’ve ever seen a really tough Q&A at an E3 … but that would be off topic…

In general I think we as an industry spend too much time bribing our media with fancy gifts and exclusive junkets and invite only events. I guess E3 falls in that category for me.

imageYahtzee: Is E3 worth the money? I wouldn’t know, I’ve never actually been in person. But attending a consumer show for video games (as opposed to a trade convention like GDC) does feel like antithesis to a few principles in my core philosophy. I do not get hyped up for things. It’s just universally unhelpful for everything I do. If you don’t give a shit then you can only be pleasantly surprised, and I’ve been burnt too often by disappointment to fall for it again. In which case, E3 is like some unholy anti-Mecca for me. It’s all hype, all the time. I usually devote a video to going through all the hottest videos that come out of it and explaining why they’re all going to suck. Why? Because someone has to. You can only disappoint the people so often before civilization collapses.

That said, any excuse for a piss-up, right fellas?

imageJim Sterling: Is E3 worth the money? I don’t just ask this about E3, but pretty much anything. Was it worth the money for Rockstar to send out classy metal lighters for L.A. Noire? Did EA profit from sending $200 to a bunch of outlets in order to promote to Dante’s Inferno? When it comes to these kind of marketing stunts, it’s next to impossible to tell if the money being spent is being directly made back. We don’t know if the sending of lighters with L.A. Noire improved reviews, and whether or not those reviews improved sales. Are swag and review copies worthy investments? Publishers keep sending them, so they must work in some way, or at least don’t hurt. Likewise, I feel that way about E3. It’s America’s biggest show, and whether or not it’s worth the money, it has stayed with us for a long time. Even part-time gamers know that this is where the big guns are brought out, and mainstream publications will keep an eye on it right there with the specialist press.

I think the answer to the question of E3’s worth takes the form of another question — who really cares? The spectacle, the weirdness, the balls-out announcements are the reward. To make a splash at E3, and become the talk of the show, is more than a worthy reward, even if you can’t prove you monetarily got your money back. While some may try to deny it, this is a fun industry, and the fun of E3 is worth its weight in gold. E3 is where one gets to forget about online passes, subscription fees, and the general suit-driven husk that gaming keeps threatening to become, and just focus on some great looking games. I think it reignites the love for gaming in everybody, whether they’re covering, exhibiting, or watching from afar. It’s an annual battery recharge for one’s love of the medium. I’d say that’s worth paying for.

What do you guys expect to see at this year’s show?

imageYahtzee: I expect Nintendo to continue pulling this massive, multi-billion-dollar practical joke it’s been playing for the last few years. “Casual gaming and motion controls are the future,” it declared. “Look, we’re doing it too, look!” cried Sony and Microsoft desperately. “LOL J/K,” went Nintendo. “Here’s some overbloated hardware paid for by all the shitheads and their money.”

So I expect Nintendo to wheel out all the usual franchises, and I expect that before the other two drop Kinect and Move like a hot coal covered in sick they will bring some games out to make some attempt to squeeze whatever money remains in the whole sorry business. Anyone who buys them is a traitor to us all.

imageJames Portnow: Dreamcast 2…oh wait that’s the next question.

Really, more of the same. I expect to hear the words “cutting edge” “graphical fidelity” and “Xtreme!1!” a great deal of talk about the “success of the motion control experiment”. We’ll probably get the rumor mill running about the next generation as well.

imageJim Sterling: Well, my next video has a list of some of the games I’m looking forward to seeing, but as far as major announcements go, I think we more or less all know what to expect. The big talking points will undoubtedly be the NGP and Project Cafe, with Nintendo’s new console dominating the headlines. As far as Microsoft, who knows? The previous two years have seen Microsoft with some very dull press conferences, both of them being used primarily to pimp Project Natal/Xbox Kinect. It seems that, while motion control is falling out of favor with everybody, Microsoft will continue to promote its waggle sensor. When MS has committed to invest in something, it seems reluctant to just call it quits (see: Japan), so I’m expecting a whole bunch of Kinect titles that nobody cares about, and that one Star Wars game.

Barring all that, what do you wish would be there but isn’t going to be?

imageJames Portnow: People who buy games…

(Though If S-E decides to surpise us with a Thief announcement, I’ll be pretty excited)

Wow, I sound like a jaded git. Didn’t think I’d be taking that role ; )

imageYahtzee: As implied above, I try not to hope for anything. Which is depressing in the short term but in the long run I make a net gain. I guess I wish to see some explanation for what, exactly, you’re supposed to use a touchscreen in a controller for when there’s another, much bigger screen in the room.

imageJim Sterling: Edge of Twilight. My first E3 saw me nab my first big exclusive, the debut trailer for Fuzzyeye’s steampunk-themed action/adventure title. Sadly, financial issues have put the title in jeopardy and its status is very much in the “nobody knows if it’ll ever see the light of day” category. I was definitely hoping to see more from the game soon, and would’ve loved to have gotten confirmation that Fuzzyeyes would be in town, but no dice. It’s a shame, because the studio had a commitment to narrative that is increasingly rare these days. The guys had a ridiculous amount of heart. Sadly, they didn’t have as much cash.

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