E3 is downsizing again (this time perhaps not by choice) after what feels like only a few years of returning to a larger show; Though now that I think about it I guess it has been about 8 years. We last attended E3 in 2008 during a year when E3 was made more ‘intimate’ and designed for mostly just the press to engage with the developers rather than putting on a spectacle for the fans. That was very short-lived and the convention returned to a full-blown hype fest once more.
The reason for the down-sizing this time appears to be developer driven. Many developers are simply downsizing or pulling out entirely due to E3 no longer making sense for them. EA pulled out of their usual huge floor space in the south hall in favor of its own events in London and LA. Activision, Disney, and Wargaming all just announced this week that they too will be abandoning the show in favor of engaging fans in new ways (or old ways if Disney sticks with D23).
People are speculating on the whys here. I think a few things are obvious.
Press are no longer gatekeepers of information and developers no longer rely on them to spread the word. Nintendo has been leading the charge here for several years and excelling on communicating with their fans — agree or disagree with their decision, they excel at constantly engaging. Most big developers are following in their footsteps with their own in-house teams.
Add in how big streaming has become, and the huge shift toward digital products, and the need for a huge convention to move boxes is becoming less and less important.
The “industry” in general has become less centralized. Again, this shifts toward individual publishers and companies having their own teams and relying on their own digital marketing efforts. I say good for them.
The question up in the air that I’m still going back and forth on is whether or not this is necessarily good or bad for the industry. Nothing really changes here for the press. This is more of a hit to that feeling of excitement people feel around June/July when E3 hypes people up for the rest of the year. Taking it a step further, it really only hurts people who actually attend. For those who sit at home, the conferences will still be broadcast. The companies will still showcase their own stuff. The press will still cover everything — just not at their event on their terms.
Developers have simply come to realize they don’t need E3 like E3 needs them.