Does E3 Still Matter?

Does E3 Still Matter?

If you work for the games industry in any capacity, chances are you’re gearing up to party down at E3, gaming’s biggest annual trade show. E3 is always a spectacle, complete with celebrity events and appearances to match, and this year likely won’t be any different: We’ll see new systems, new games, speeches, press conferences, and industry bigwigs puffing up at each other in the manner of frilled lizards posturing over territory.

But not everyone will be there. Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima has already opted out. The most noteworthy absence, however, will be Valve. The proprietors of Steam will presumably be eating a turkey TV dinner while the rest of the industry bathes itself in lights and noise. Or, more likely, Valve will invest all its energies into upcoming releases like DOTA 2 while other developers kill themselves to get playable demos out the door in time for the show.

In fact, E3 seems to primarily serve as a show for retail releases; companies that distribute via digital channels don’t show as much interest in E3. With the industry’s rapid adoption of digital distribution, does E3 still matter?

If the hype for this year’s show reflects any kind of an answer: Yes, absolutely. Despite attempts to cool the frenzy around E3 by making the show invite-only in 2007, and despite attempts to set up a more inclusive “Entertainment for All” Expo around the same time, something about the incoming warmth of late spring makes us quiver for game news. Even if we can’t attend E3–and most of us can’t with the new attendance rules in place–liveblogging, Twitter, and the improved quality of live Internet feeds ensures that we get news from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo as soon as it falls out of the representatives’ mouths. Then we tweet and re-tweet that news, like so many sparrows perched on a telephone wire. Even if you’re not at the show, there’s something admittedly exciting about the whole process. That may be why, despite attempts to turn down the volume on E3’s influence, publishers and devs just keep on coming back. And so do we.

In fact, with the growing influence of digital distribution, E3 is arguably more important than ever. E3 is the one time of year we’re guaranteed to see and play those triple-A blockbuster titles that are becoming rarer in the industry, but are no less important to gaming’s economy. E3 also brings the announcement of more triple-A games, many of which must lay dormant until they’re ready for release by next year’s holiday season.

All that said, E3 is not quite the end-all, be-all of trade shows like it once was. We also look forward to the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo World, CES, PAX, GDC, and more. That’s fine; the games industry is huge, and E3 shouldn’t monopolize the trade show spectacle. Every show lends its own atmosphere and focus. Too bad all that traveling can be mighty hard on the wallet.


About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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