Let’s be blunt. E3 is not in a great way. The former trade show has lost its identity as the ESA attempts to find a way to profit off of it. Because, well, I guess having between 40,000 and 50,000 people around and discussing business wasn’t enough? They needed that sweet, sweet merchandising money and general public popularity? Due to this fluctuating state, it’s been particularly tumultuous. Companies are trying new things and leaving the show. The “big three” aren’t guaranteed attendees anymore. But now, possible plans leaked for E3 2020 suggest a complete change that could make things far worse.
Basically, GameDaily.biz came across a pitch that would make E3 2020 into a festival. That means that the first day of the event, which is always a Tuesday, would be for members of the industry only. The following Wednesday and Thursday would be for the general public and completely change everything E3 has been for years. Instead of the normal booth layouts, there would be stages for experiences for people to gather around with booths occasionally around them. Demos would be restructured to allow the ESA to have fast passes for people to get quicker access to game trials. Celebrities and influencers would become the stars of the show.
There are plenty of problems with this. First, it would strip the last remaining vestiges of professionalism from E3. It was established as a trade show. This meant it was about the companies getting to do business. Developers could connect with publishers. Publishers could work with retailers. Members of the press could investigate, interview, and report on the comings and goings. It was a way to exchange new information and technologies. It was a professional event and not designed to compete with things like gamescom or the Tokyo Game Show, which partially function as fan festivals and public events. Already, with the public present, it is difficult to conduct actual business.
But, deviation from E3’s original purpose aside, the idea that E3 2020 could become more of a convention would do a disservice to people who come to the event for any reason. Above all things, E3 is supposed to be about the games and consoles. It is a chance to see new ideas and technologies in action. By shifting to make the focus experiences, which would have celebrities participating in activities or people watching while influencers play the games, the soul of the show would be gone. It wouldn’t be a celebration of electronic entertainment. It would be an opportunity to watch other people enjoying things instead, in the name of drawing attention to E3 itself, these individuals, and the ESA.
The most terrifying thing is how it would turn E3 into one gigantic ad. When the proposed E3 2020 pitch mentioned a special app with fast pass elements for demos, it also brought up “queuetainment.” This means the apps would track your actions and give the ESA that data and set you up for ads. A lot of the slides acquired by GameDaily.biz mentioned “paid media partnerships,” which would involve the ESA and E3 selling out in the name of more money and attention.
It’s all just very discouraging. Especially if you grew up with E3 and saw it as this legendary show where new game demos that may never turn into full titles would appear, prototype consoles could show up, and people dedicated to their craft would talk about making games. It could be a window into the future. It gradually lost its way and became more commercial, losing companies like Sony that made it what it was in the process. If these possible E3 2020 changes go through, it could be disastrous.