A games conference like E3 offers a unique glimpse into the makeup of the industry at large. Like a microcosm in a petri dish you’ll find many of the elements on a showfloor that also exist out in the wild across the industry.
In recent years, one of the more notable shifts has been the diversification of the audience. Certainly a growing number of, shall we say, non-professionals (ie consumers) managed to get their hands on a ticket and wander the hallways looking to play upcoming titles and collect swag.
After a few iterations, E3 has finally become an event that is accessible to the general public. And for good reason: most of the major shows outside the US – Gamescom, ChinaJoy, Tokyo Game Show – are all open to the public. This is consistent with the broader popularisation of video games as a form of entertainment.
After years of steady growth, video games today are on par with any other entertainment industry. Not only has it grown to a market valued at $117bn (£90bn), but its cultural relevance has taken the main stage.
On a daily basis we see people chasing Pokémon, come together to watch their favorite players compete, or immerse themselves in virtual reality. Where previously games were relegated to people’s basements and its players regarded as socially devious, today we’ve clearly entered a new era.
Games no longer exist on the fringes and that’s been an important and well-deserved development. But the change in the way that society has come to regard games brings with it some important ramifications.
"The cultural relevance of video games
has taken the main stage."
Joost van Dreunen, SuperData
Where previously the games industry had been considered largely irrelevant in regards to its contribution to a broader socio-cultural conversation, today we find an active constituency of both game makers and players. The topics that drive our industry and how it reflects on the world in which it exists are increasingly complex and require more nuance.
Do we really expect our sisters, girlfriends, and daughters to contend with the old-fashioned visualisations of the female body? If you recall, E3 used to crawl with scantily-clad booth babes. As publishers started to appeal to a broader, more diverse audience, these stone-age marketing tactics have begun to disappear. It is an exciting thing when an industry makes a course correction, even more so as you can see this dynamic play out right in front of you.
For that reason I’m also excited to observe new initiatives like the E3 Coliseum. This industry deserves, and arguably desperately needs, a broader discourse on the topics on which it speaks. Hosting for the first time an open conversation between professionals, celebrities, and fans is exactly the kind of step you’d expect from an industry that is aiming to make the most of its newfound visibility.
This year promises to be another great year for video games. Certainly because of the new titles and hardware that will be announced. But perhaps moreso because this year we will see a new kind of E3. One that recognises its new place in the world, and rises to the occasion.
Joost van Dreunen is founder and CEO of SuperData Research. He is a leading expert on interactive entertainment and teaches at the NYU Stern School of Business