Make no mistake: I most certainly look forward to E3 each year just as much as the next gamer. It’s a week absolutely packed with announcements and news, all about what we’re going to be playing over the next few years (or more). It’s all very exciting, and it’s a lot of fun to go through article after article and video after video for days after the show ends trying to get caught up and make sure I see everything.
The problem is, it just doesn’t quite feel like the “event” that it used to.
Once upon a time–which sounds like a hyperbolic statement to make about an event that is only two decades old, but bare with me–E3 was where games premiered. It’s where you not only saw games for the very first time, but heard about them for the very first time. Before the internet, those of us who weren’t a member of the gaming press had to wait until the following month when the magazines had their big E3 blowouts, and every page was full of amazing new things we’d never seen before (with some shots of D-cupped booth babes and D-list celebrities thrown in for good measure). Even as the internet began to become a more common presence in the homes of the gaming community, there was still only a relatively small number of news outlets reporting on E3 and the game companies were able to keep a much tighter hold on the flow of information pre-E3; people with video game fan sites hosted on GeoCities didn’t really have access to all that much that they weren’t getting directly from Gamespot anyway.
Now, all of that has changed. With countless websites, blogs, and YouTube channels reporting on video game news, many of them not caring about toeing company lines and pissing off developers and publishers, there’s a whole new culture in “games journalism.” People are always on the hunt for leaks and talking to developers off the record and being able to snap sneaky pictures with their phones, all of which makes it that much harder for game companies to fully keep things under wraps before E3. In the weeks, if not months, prior to E3, we see press releases and photos of company booths, some of which are fake but many of which have proven not to be. People have gotten just a little too good at investigating, which has robbed E3 of a lot of its surprise and mystique.
As a countermeasure to this, many companies have begun holding their own events at various points throughout the year, trying to stay one step ahead of the journalists and attempting to keep announcements and surprises intact. The Xbox 360 was unveiled during a prime time special…on MTV. That’s not even just one game, that was an entire console, making its own special public debut far removed from E3. Sure, some of the independent announcements are just to stand out from the noise of E3 and get more of the attention focused directly on something specific. But that’s all the more reason why E3 just doesn’t feel as special anymore, that companies don’t feel like they absolutely have to fight the noise and the hype and the chaos of E3 like they used to.
I certainly don’t think E3 is completely irrelevant. I just think it’s one of many points throughout the year when we hear big announcements, alongside PAX, ComiCon, Consumer Electronics Show, C2E2, Tokyo Game Show, Gamescom, Blizzcon, QuakeCon, the Spike TV video game awards, MTV, EA’s annual event, Sony’s annual event, Nintendo’s annual event…