The Apparent Decline of E3

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E3, 2018

At long last, the Electronics Entertainment Expo is right around the corner once again. With E3 right around the corner, gamers once again find themselves in a fever pitch in anticipation of the event. Some are searching for leaks while others are eagerly awaiting the event, hypothesizing about the potential announcements to be made. In some ways, E3 really is “gamer Christmas” as it has come to be known.

This year, however, there is an air of uncertainty in Los Angeles. For the first time since the mid-90s Sony will not be attending the event, leaving the rest of the big attendees in a bit of a tricky situation. With Sony out of the picture, Microsoft and Nintendo now have the opportunity to make a big splash in the headlines. The news of Sony’s absence from E3 sent a sort of shockwave throughout the gaming industry. After a boring at worst and middling at best 2018 press conference, Sony decided to skip 2019 entirely. Sony will not only forego a press conference but will also not have a floor presence of any kind with no exhibition booth. This will be the first E3 Sony has missed since its inception in 1995, a landmark event in which Sony first announced details about the original PlayStation’s release.

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Sony choosing to skip E3 this year was a bit of a shock at the time of the announcement, but after thinking about the decision it begins to make more sense. With the impending PlayStation 5, also known as the “next PlayStation” according to Sony, there is not much first party content left to look forward to in this console generation that hasn’t already been revealed. With their 2018 press conference, Sony laid all their cards out on the table with the four games they presented. One of which, Marvel’s Spider-Man, releasing that same year. The remaining three games Death Stranding, The Last of Us: Part II, and Ghost of Tsushima all have release dates of TBA. If Sony did not want to reveal what they were working on for the next console generation this early, going to E3 would have been a waste of time for them.

With Sony’s announcement, people began speculating what the use of E3 was in the modern gaming world. With gaming news websites becoming more prevalent along with the rise of social media, the idea of a gaming central convention for people in the gaming industry became somewhat antiquated. There are a number of publishers that don’t bother attending the event due to the cache that their brand carries. Valve, Blizzard, Rockstar Games, and Activision all opt to premiere their latest games on their own time in their own ways. Nintendo themselves, once one of the big three to have their own press conference stage, have opted to forego the presser. Instead, Nintendo holds a yearly Nintendo Direct right before the main E3 festivities begin while attending the event with a yearly exhibition booth, both foregoing and honoring tradition all in one. Furthermore, there are a number of gaming conventions that have their own uniqueness to them, such as The numerous iterations of the Penny Arcade Expo and Gamescom. Both of these conventions have boasted a much higher attendance count than the average E3 in the last few years. So, what is the purpose of such an event in the modern era?

E3 is a trade show at heart, with numerous gaming companies and luminaries showing up. However, what differentiates E3 from other gaming conventions or trade shows are the moments that have come from the event. Even in its early days, console and gaming reveals shook the industry for years to come. Take for instance E3 1997, in which the first Metal Gear Solid game was introduced to the western world. Or E3 2004, when Nintendo began their conference by introducing their new Nintendo of America president, Reggie Fils Aime. In the same 2004 conference, Nintendo ended by revealing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess to raucous applause for both the game, and a surprise appearance by Shigeru Miyamoto himself. Even moments from last year’s event will be considered legendary in years to come, such as the Cyberpunk 2077 reveal at Microsoft’s press conference, or The Last of Us II’s gameplay trailer at Sony’s conference.

Make no mistake about it: Sony missing E3 is notable, and it will make this year’s event seem somewhat empty from a large publisher perspective. However, the event will still have its merits; upcoming conferences from Ubisoft and Square Enix will yield an interesting array of games, Microsoft will begin to unwrap the mystery of their next generation plans, and Nintendo will be Nintendo for better or worse. This doesn’t even take into account the numerous indie games that will be announced or the exciting-yet-bizarre saga of Devolver Digital and Nina Struthers. Plus, just because Sony is foregoing the event this year does not mean they discount the importance of the event. Some viewers may be lost by the absence, but don’t fear: E3 is still going to be “gamer Christmas,” it will just be missing one of their crazy kids.

Plus hey, they’ll be back next year. That PS5 ain’t gonna market itself!

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