The Los Angeles Convention Centre has always been a place of peril as well as profit. Attending is something of a survival course: high-pressure meetings, late-late-late-night networking, cross-floor appointment dashes or the grinding endurance test of simply standing and smiling on the stand.
But forget everything you think you know about E3, because the show is changing. This year, hordes of gamers will flood the LACC in a relentless human tidal wave. They’re hungry, too. Very hungry, although thankfully not for human flesh. Still, they will stop at nothing to achieve their goals: huge quantities of swag, ‘celebrity’ selfies and five minutes on Super Mario Odyssey.
As they largely feed on the most spurious tat and merch, do not get between these newcomers and anything that is being handed out for free. If you’re a well-loved developer, then please wear a disguise on the show floor for your own protection. And to anyone manning Nintendo’s stand this year: good luck and god bless.
Seriously, though, the introduction of another 15,000 people into the LACC could well throw a spanner into the works of your highly-honed show routine – imagine the queues at Starbucks alone!
On the bright side, at least you’ll have an excuse when you miss that all-important meeting due to the sheer weight of numbers on the concourse.
Away from the show floor, it should be business as usual. Yes, some of the press conferences have shifted, but the sun will shine, the drinks will pour and the UK press will end up at the Saddle Ranch on Sunset – even if they swear on their mother’s graves that they won’t.
Our guide to E3 provides pre-show analysis (see below), tips from UK show veterans and some great places to visit in-and-around town – that you can read in this week's issue. Plus, if you can’t make it to LA this year, we’ve got you covered with our guide to soaking up the show from the UK.
In recent years, there have been fewer games coming from the big publishers. Games are designed to be played for longer, to generate income post-release, and most publishers no longer work across all the core genres.
That’s a key reason why the ‘crowd-pleasing indie game’ has become such a staple of the E3 press conference. These big tentpole events need lots of content to fill their running times, and with fewer games being released that’s an issue. A brand-new indie (think No Man’s Sky or Rime) is also a genuine breath of fresh air in a franchise-dominated market.
Championing more indie titles in the press conferences is a win-win situation, as it can be a meaningful litmus test of their public popularity, and enable meetings between the new studios and established players. It’s a big part of E3’s future in an increasingly digital world.
When is a press conference not a press conference? Strictly speaking, Nintendo doesn’t have an E3 press conference, and yet the ESA still proudly lists the time and date of Nintendo’s Spotlight stream on its E3 press conferences homepage.
The having, or not having, of an E3 press conference has been something of a talking point over recent years – one now further complicated by Nintendo’s digital halfway house. Given the exposure around E3 via both the specialist and mass media is immense, maybe we’ll see more virtual press conferences in years to come. Yes, it’s just a stream but label it a press conference and you’ll get a lot more eyeballs.
Now, some companies do very well by using partners’ events to promote their products, but even that doesn’t preclude a broader, or more detailed round-up of everything they have on show – and all without the expense and complication of hiring your own venue in LA.
Scorpio’s looking great, but the big question at Microsoft’s press conference will be how much it costs, and how many want to pay that much to play prettier versions of the same games? New hardware is all well and good, but both Scorpio and the Xbox ecosystem as a whole need some big titles to get people excited. We’d feel more confident if we had a few big upcoming exclusives to help focus attention on the box, but right now the Xbox armoury is looking a tad bare. Crackdown 3 had better make an impressive resurrection after years off the radar.
Over at Sony, the hardware’s already out, but the PS4 Pro could look outgunned by Scorpio. More pressingly, Sony has to show it’s seriously behind PlayStation VR this year. Showing a couple of must-play titles would be ideal.
The real question is whether developers can reorient their non-VR titles to the headset in the way Resident Evil 7 did. With a few more big franchise games boasting VR support for their core modes, the headset could really come to life.