The Electronic Entertainment Expo has been a yearly (mostly) event since video games hit the mainstream. With this comes mini-conferences from the biggest in the gaming industry and we all tune in and attend with no question. Sometimes, well, it can get interesting.
I included a video of some pretty notable moments as finding clips of the growing pains of E3 in a social media landscape isn’t the easiest thing when included with zero context. I don’t usually share WatchMojo content here often, but this video does do a really good job of showing just what we’ve had to witness through some of these conference moments. It’s rather comical to watch these and remember being in the audience for the majority of these press conferences shown. Especially when I recall the flinching and cringing we were doing as we sat there, locked in these auditoriums, as things went bonkers.
While these moments are what memes are made of, there has always been a pang of sympathy when you’re sitting there witnessing them live and before your eyes. Since these are scripted and prepared long before the show, often enough you used to be able to tell that someone wasn’t directing the entire show altogether. It seemed like different dev studios were all crammed and displaying things without a fluidity to it. I blame the fact that about the time social media was popping off with MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter — everyone was trying to figure out a way to make the best they could for viral marketing. With that, some video game companies tried to add comedians as their hosts but would choose hosts that weren’t familiar with video games. Other times, they would forget that their devs weren’t naturally native English speakers and complications would arise from a lack of understanding and their obvious nerves.
Eventually, the memes would end up painful and studios would feel so unbelievably mocked that they would progressive get better and better every year to avoid the negative connections. By 2013, I feel, people were locked into having directors and producers that would make these conferences, that were being broadcast to millions, more visibly cohesive and entertaining. I remember after 2013, I was so excited for every single Sony press conference because they became massive spectacles. In 2010, Activision did something that somewhat burst the bubble of the boring press conferences but did so in the most over the top spectacle that nobody could match it.
This fellow Activision 2010 alum, Samuel Castanon, captured a moment from it that happened towards the end. Eminem closed out the party but prior to him? It was all food, alcohol and every popular band of 2010 that you could even name. I sat pretty decently close in the stands right at the line between seating and standing room and I just recall so much dancing. There was fire exploding from the corners of the auditorium and then foam spraying out tiny minute bubbles all over the place. Meanwhile, we got to see Chris Cornell and a lovely childrens choir come on stage singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Yeah. That all happened. Texting feverishly, all of us were trying to update people on what was happening before their very eyes because livestreams of this were just not happening and quite literally nobody believed us.
But those kind of events aren’t sustainable. So much money goes into E3 as it is but the press conferences are an additional cost that a lot of publishers just don’t attempt to incur unless they think they can make enough money back on the games they’re displaying to necessitate the cost. See, that’s the entire point of the E3 Expo. It’s not just about showing off video games to eager game enthusiasts, but it’s about showcasing it to journalists who will cover these games they’ve put money into and about showing other investors who may want to take part in their publishing companies in the future. Once in awhile, to try and recoup the losses that happen during these shows, you’ll see tickets being sold to folks outside of media, exhibitors and investors. I’ve got my own feelings on that, but still, the point is that it’s an expensive show to put on.
There was no way Activision was going to get topped in its scale, but when we walked away from it — we also had a hard time remembering the games they were even pitching us. That was the problem. See, the spectacle became the thing and it was so intense that it left very little impression of the products they were pitching at us for coverage. After seeing what wreckage was left behind from the Bacchanalian-esque affair, studios then started rising up to reach the hype of the Activision party but not go so far as to let us forget why we were there.
Case in point: Sony’s 2016 E3 Conference.
Ever since 2013, the E3 press conferences were picking up an exciting speed and rhythm but 2016 was unlike anything I had ever seen. Bear McCreary and this incredible orchestra poured music into our bones before the first sighting of Sony Santa Monica’s reboot of God of War with its director, Cory Barlog, playing live on stage. Usually big moments like that are saved for the finale and we became used to that formula. Sony switched it up and took our breath away fast and then showed so many amazing upcoming titles that we had a hard time catching it again. Was it over the top? I wouldn’t say so. It was just opulent enough that we couldn’t forget a single moment and that’s what envelopes us for the rest of the expo when we attend. Those moments. It reminds us that we’re not just writers, critics, journalists and media but pure video game romantics. When we would shoot up from our chairs and scream until our lungs nearly collapsed, we couldn’t be stoic and straight-laced professionals because we were in love.
And that’s where we’re at. E3 2019 is an off year for many of the bigger players in the console department because places like Microsoft and Sony are working on their next systems. These off years happen the year before a system’s holiday launch. We see very little from first party places like Sony and Microsoft because they want to hold onto those titles tight for the next generation of systems. These are years where other studios and publishers can really shine and showcase things that won’t be overshadowed by the monetary glitter of multi-million dollar mini press conferences. This is the year for Ubisoft to step up and ahead of the others and for Bethesda to regain some of the love they may have lost in the past year. Devolver Digital has FAST become one of our favorites and it’s a pre-recorded off-site livestream! EA? Well, we’ll see what happens there. Regardless, it is these moments that make me excited to love gaming and the future we have for technology in entertainment. Isn’t that what matters most?