A couple surprising stories have been breaking from big name companies regarding their presence at E3. Nintendo recently confirmed that it would not put on a keynote presentation at E3 2013. 2K Games may not be showing up at all. Valve hasn’t shown up to E3 in a while. It seems as if company after company is deciding to just not go to E3 this year. This begs the question: is E3 really as important as we are all making it out to be?
Nintendo has some pretty good reasons for not doing a keynote at E3 this year. First of all, this is the year that Sony and Microsoft get to show off their next-generation consoles. Nintendo already had its moment in the sun with the Wii U over the last two years and anything that they did in their keynote would simply pale in comparison to Sony and Microsoft’s spectacles.
However, Nintendo also said that they weren’t doing a keynote because they have another way to get their information to the fans: Nintendo Direct. If you haven’t seen these presentations, they are, essentially, mini keynotes that Nintendo puts on almost every month. Satoru Iwata and other Nintendo greats get in front of a camera to show off big upcoming Nintendo titles via live stream. We get to see brand new trailers, gameplay demonstrations, teases for the upcoming year, and much more.
The thing is, these Nintendo Direct dreams are to most people, exactly the same as the E3 keynote. E3 is an industry only conference, and so if you are just random Joe gamer, your only choice is to watch the keynote via live stream. However, you are seeing the exact same information as the games journalist down in the front row of the E3 keynotes audience. In fact, you are almost getting better info, as you always have a perfect vantage point to watch all of the gameplay and trailers.
For that very reason, many outlets are now reporting on E3 keynotes from home rather than at the keynotes themselves. Internet is spotty in the huge theaters that these keynotes are held at, and as such many people can’t even report on the keynotes until they are over. However, anyone watching the livestream can provide up to the minute coverage from the comfort of their own home or office.
Nintendo Direct presentations are the same as an E3 keynote for almost everyone, except they are far cheaper and easier to produce for Nintendo. There’s no need to rend out a big stadium or hire a band or lightning crew. They just need to dress up Iwata in a suit and put him in front of a camera at Nintendo HQ. No wonder Nintendo is stepping back from the keynote this year. All it is, is essentially a concert for people who work in the gaming industry.
But what about the show floor? Sure, you can get the same info as a keynote on an internet stream, but you can’t play game demos remotely… or can you? Remember that the PlayStation 4 has the ability to stream games to your console. That means you can play a game without its data ever actually sitting on your harddrive. If a company wants to make a new game demo available, all they have to do is stream it to you, and you won’t even have to wait in line!
But what if a company doesn’t want a demo available to the public yet? What if they only want the press to get hands on time? That’s also simple! Steam already has accounts that can be tagged as “press” or “industry”. Simply make your streamed game demo available to consoles or user accounts that only have these tags.
But what about developers who want to sit down and walk the press through their demo behind closed doors? Open up voice chat and use the PS4’s ability to take over the controls to walk them through it step by step. But what about developers who want to play the demo themselves? Even easier, just record yourself playing the demo. But what about interviews with the design team? Voice chat or Skype works wonders for that. But what about the booth babes!? PlayStation Home already lets you use your avatar to flirt with virtual booth babes in a virtual reconstruction of an E3 booth, you pervert!
Simply put, there isn’t actually any information that you can get from a big gaming conference that you can’t get remotely via the internet. Sure, there’s a bit of camaraderie that you are missing out on. You won’t be able to hang out and get a beer with your many different gaming industry friends and contacts, that’s true. Doesn’t that just make E3 a huge party for the gaming industry? I’m not against that, being that I’m a part of the gaming industry, but it sure is a lot of money to spend just to show a bunch of game developers and journalists a good time.
So it might be that gaming conferences are slowly going the way of the dinosaur. As more and more remote possibilities open up fewer and fewer companies will start renting out big booths at E3, GDC, PAX, or anywhere. It may be that, one day, all of our big gaming conventions will take place in virtual space. There might still be spectacle in virtual keynotes and virtual booths, but we may all be doing it from our office chairs or from home. Maybe it’s just the natural progression of an industry that is getting more reliant on digital space while simultaneously detaching itself from face to face interpersonal experience… or maybe we have just gotten sick of spending truck loads of money to wait in line for three hours for a minute and a half demo of the next Call of Duty. It’s one or the other.
- Angelo D' Argenio is a freelance staffer at Arcade Sushi. His opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the staff at Arcade Sushi or Townsquare Media. (He is also totally going to E3 this year whether or not it's important.)