E3: So Long, We Hardly New You Edition
When asked, I told people I started this blog as a cathartic outlet. I didn't really care if any one read it, and I wrote when I had something to say. People started to read. I mean, who doesn't like to watch a good train wreck. There was a period of time I had a lot to say, and after a while the compulsion was gone. I guess it worked. I catharted. Or so I thought. This morning I saw this quote from Mike - boy do I miss Doug Lowenstien - Gallagher:
"The video game industry's explosive growth and technological innovation were front and centre at E3 2014," said owner and manager of E3 Michael D. Gallagher."Video games are the most innovative and engaging force driving our culture and entertainment experiences the world over. Congratulations to our incredibly creative members, partners, exhibitors, and the hundreds of millions of gamers who engaged with the show online and through social media."
He was trying to say this E3 - the one where I could talk on my phone from the show floor and haul a double wide trailer through the generous aisles - was growing and more successful than E3's of the past and that it somehow represented the game industry. I would try to characterize the statement but I am not familiar with the word to use when "delusional" fails to describe the gap between one's perception and the reality raining down around them and drenching them in its cold wetness until the moisture renders their fingers and toes are indistinguishable from raisins and the cold would place their nipples above diamonds on Mohs scale of hardness. Not a single publisher with a game in Apple's top 10 grossing was represented on the show floor, and if you take out EA and Disney, there is nothing in the top 50. While Wargaming was there, as they are moving to console, no Riot, no Valve or any other significant PC publisher. We were left with console, which is a fantastic market, but one that could not be characterized as explosively growing since shortly after my son was born - he is on his way to college now. E3 remains the useless dick waving display it always, but sadly, the dicks have gotten much shorter. All the big ones were too busy making money and people happy to attend. While I do not know exactly who the 40 plus thousand people were in attendance, I am comfortable positing a majority were there only out of momentum or the need to find a place to kill time around Michael Pachter's party. It does not have to be this way.
The road map to success is clear. I wrote about it six years ago because I saw Comic Con doing it right. It was not really tough, they started with a goal "have a reason for being."
The Con organizers realized they had a rabid fan base, and with the advent of the Internet, and more specifically, blogs, the fans had a voice. Over the course of the next ten years, they transformed the event from the place to see the new comics, to the most significant pop culture event in the world. From a comic lover's point of view, the Con lost an awful lot. Some may even say it lost its soul. From an economic perspective it moved from the realm of curious oddity to can't be missed launch event. Seeing as E3 never had a soul, there is nothing to lose. The biggest reason for the disparate treatment of the same issue - the Con actually likes its consumers and decided to cater to them. Even if the exhibitors feel the need to main line Purell after a day of hand shaking and autographs, they still know where their bread is buttered.In 2009, probably not inspired by my post, Gamescom started up and had a radical idea. Let the people who love games come in and see the games. They, like the Tokyo Game Show, have a public day. As a result, the conference is exploding. Publishers show up to let the public see the games and promote them to the media. Just like E3 . . . . oh yeah, that's right, only members of the game industry who already know about every game on the floor are allowed in to E3. Gamescom also welcomes the media on site to broadcast live. Just like E3 with MTV and Spike . . . oh yeah, that's right, we threw them out. You can watch the E3 stuff on Twitch, the web based channel dominated by games like League of Legends and DOTA2, which were not represented at E3. It seems not all circles are virtuous.
PAX takes it one step further actually embraces the culture surrounding games with the public. As a result, games are launched there, investment is made and business gets done because everyone is there. Contrast this with E3 who alienates the public and increased friction by requiring ID to be shown along with my FREE ticket. Day one, no ID. Day Two, "just show me a business card," Day 3, "You need a photo ID." Admittedly, I have authority issues, but being late for a meeting in the back of the hall I flashed the guy a stack of my business cards and when he asked for photo ID, I had to ask if he really thought I would be walking with a badge and a stack of matching business cards for a guy who was not me. The guy blue screened for long enough for me to just walk in. I realize video games are just one of the myriad of reasons the terrorists hate us, but does anyone think they wanted to blow up the Activision booth? What other reason could there be to stop a person with a verifiably authentic badge from walking in to see game the publishers brought to the show to share with as many people as possible?
It is nice to see friends from out of town, but I do that at GDC, DICE and Nite to Unite. The parties are a lot of fun and often impressive, but by the third day the same people in a different venue becomes stale. The show floor is a great place to see upcoming games, the 40k + people who marveled at the Dead Island 2 trailer are much more valuable than the 2 million who watched the same thing on line in the first day. Oh yeah, they are not. Maybe this is why so many publishers decided not to show up, and those who did left most of the staff at home.
I am afraid E3 had a great life and it is time to let it die and rest in peace. Like an ailing grandparent, It is increasingly costly to maintain, requiring an ever increasing amount of time and attention and suffering a declining quality of life. Our continued life support is driven by our own selfish need to maintain the familiar world we know and keep happy memories alive, but the patient is suffering. It is time we either invest in the transplant the patient needs to enjoy a high quality of life, or pull the plug and let it die.