E3 Opens to the Public – A Necessary Change?

This week, a big announcement was made regarding the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo: 15,000 passes for members of the general public will go on sale on February 13, 2017 at E3Expo.com. The first thousand tickets will cost $149; the rest will be $249. In case you’re somehow unfamiliar with it, E3 has for a very long time been an industry-only event- the only people attending have been video game journalists, developers, and other people working in the industry. For a lot of people, the only way to see and get impressions of upcoming video games has been through coverage of those games through game journalists.

In recent years, however, there’s been quite a proliferation of video game related shows and expos- between the Penny Arcade Expos (PAX Unplugged was quite recently announced), Indiecade East and West, the Rooster Teeth Expo, MAGfest, Gamescom- there’s something for everybody, everywhere. All these other shows are quite open to the public- so why has it taken so long for E3 to follow suit?

The Big One

Of all the video game related shows, E3 has largely maintained a reputation of being the “big show” to watch. Wondering what games will be coming to the Xbox and Playstation over the next year and a half? Watch E3. Want to see gameplay of the new Mario? E3 coverage has you covered (well, not as of late). The thing is, the show has been losing relevance with the proliferation of other gaming expos. Sony, for instance, has created the Playstation Experience, which is essentially their own little E3 that happens around the end of the year. It’s open to the public and it features big announcements specifically for Playstation related products. Nintendo doesn’t have much of a presence at E3 anymore, preferring to hold online press conferences instead of renting out auditoriums at the event.

To be clear, E3 is still big news- but it’s not considered to be as necessary to attend these days. If you’re an independent game developer, you’re probably not thinking about attending E3 to show off your game on the show floor. Why compete with big AAA games with multi-million dollar marketing budgets for a moment in the spotlight when you can go to PAX or Indiecade, where there’s a spotlight just for indie games? The people who are looking for E3 coverage are by and large searching for coverage of the big games, and of anything shown off during press conferences. If you’re indie, you’re the side show. The “These Five Games You Missed at E3” list, if that.

Attending any sort of trade show with your game can be an expensive affair- so it’s going to have to pay off. With this latest move, E3 may have just become relevant to indies again. The 15,000 new attendees are going to be ecstatic about attending the show- based on the public’s reaction to this announcement thus far, people are excited by the opportunity to attend the show that they’ve watched online for so many years- or, if they’ve been gaming a long time, read about in magazines.
Bear in mind that 15,000 people going to E3 is a large number but not massive, all things considered- a PAX event may draw well over 100K attendees. E3 being relatively exclusive in this regard serves to keep hype high.

So, how is this important for indie developers in attendance? Excited attendees will inevitably talk about their experiences on the show floor on social media- and those experiences will most likely include any indie games attendees can get their hands on at the show. At least, that’s what I think is going to happen.

At the end of the day, people are willing to pay $250 to be advertised to, and to be conduits for advertisement. It’s the game industry, and you know what? I’m fine with people doing what makes them happy. If you want to pay $250 for the opportunity to stand in line to see video games before they’re released to the general public, be my guest. Personally, I’m hoping that this goes well, and that this move strengthens the gaming community as a whole- but I can’t say for certain how this will turn out.

What do you think- is this the right move for E3? Will it help keep the show relevant in an age when game news is no longer dependent on coverage from a few outlets? Sound off below or hit us up and follow @1RuleBeCool on Twitter for all the greatest game news- follow me for my own views. We’ll be sharing your thoughts on next week’s episode of 1RBC Gaming Weekly!

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