E3 Is Gone But Not Forgotten
Posted by Kris Randazzo on Apr 19th 2023
The Unstoppable Juggernaut Has Been Stopped
It seems that E3 is finally dead. A little over a week ago, the ESA announced that E3 2023 is officially canceled, which is a bit of a bummer. While there hasn’t been any sort of official announcement claiming that the event will never come back in any form, it seems increasingly unlikely as each passing year goes by.
If I'm being honest, it does make sense. As much as I hate to admit it, E3 as we knew it is a relic of a bygone era. It’s a fun thing in theory, but its actual purpose has long since diminished, and with the advent of digital events, there’s little reason for companies to spend the money to come up with giant in-person presentations anymore.
E3 used to be all about convincing retailers that the games on display were worth their precious retail space. Companies would pull out all the stops to show their latest and greatest products in the best possible light in order to win said coveted space, and while it started as a pretty straightforward trade show, it eventually ballooned into some truly remarkable bits of spectacle.
I remember growing up and thinking E3 was this mythical beast that only a select few got to be a part of, and in the old days I really wasn't that far off. Most of what the world knew from these events was what we managed to glimpse in various magazines. Double page spreads in Electronic Gaming Monthly or Nintendo Power with images of people in costumes playing games we wouldn't’ wrap our hands around for months or even years (or sometimes ever) were the stuff nerdy kids like me dreamed of. There were so many awesome things that sprang out of E3, they’re too numerous to mention. Of course, there was an underside to this as well, as the ESA, the company behind E3, made some pretty bad decisions over the years, not to mention some truly cringe-worthy moments from some of those publisher press conferences. Mr. Caffeine? That one Konami presentation with the dancers and that guy who was clearly stoned out of his mind? Wii Music? Bad times indeed.
Still, it’s tough to stomach all the grave dancing going on out there in the wake of its 2023 cancellation. Just because it isn't relevant in the same way anymore, doesn’t mean its demise deserves to be celebrated like it was some sort of blight on society. Morning its inability to evolve with the times? Sure. But celebrating its death is just crass, especially coming from the folks behind Summer Game Fest. Geoff Keighly jumping all over Twitter to celebrate that his show is still running and E3 is dead is absurd to me considering that the highest points that Summer Game Fest has managed to reach, or heck even The Game Awards, have come absolutely nowhere near the heights of E3 at its peak. There’s an expression I heard on The West Wing, and I can’t find the actual quote but it went something like “We didn’t get taller, they fell down.” E3’s death does not make any of Keighly’s presentations better, full stop. So let’s dispense with that premise right now.
Anyway, E3 was a weird animal because while it looked one way to those of us at home, people actually attending the event were in a whole different world. Press whose jobs were to cover E3 were often over-exhausted, traveling from one booth to the next waiting in line to try all the games on display. Press conferences looked amazing to watch at home, but non-press show floor attendees didn't get to see those. Lines to play the games on display were sometimes hours long, meaning that if you wanted to play the latest and greatest, you often missed out on smaller games that were well deserving of attention.
I managed to go to E3 myself one year, and it’s an experience I’ll always cherish. It was the year Twilight Princess was coming out. So no, I didn’t catch that crazy Twilight Princess announcement in person, but I did get to play the game in Nintendo’s crazy booth a few months before its release. It was wild. There was this massive line that I think was about 2 hours long, and at the front you’d go into this dungeon area where there was an animatronic Wolf Link in a cage, some dude in a slightly disturbing Link costume, smoke machines everywhere, and demo stations set about where you could play the game. It was completely insane in the best way possible. Nintendo’s booth in general was really kinda nuts that year because they were hyping up Pennant Chase Baseball which never actually came out, Odama which came out to about as little fanfare as anyone could have expected, and Geist which didn’t exactly set the world on fire either.
I wish I could remember more of the experience as a whole, but a lot of it bleeds together with the Game Crazy and GameStop vendor conventions that I attended back when I worked for those companies. Those events were just for managers in those companies where they would fly us all out to Las Vegas and companies would recreate their E3 booths on a smaller scale to show us their games. It was wild. One thing I remember for sure though was playing a version of a Boy and His Blob for Nintendo DS that never came out. I remember it looking weird, but I was excited to play more of it. The ultimate Wii game was much, much better. If you want to know more about the game, the folks at Did You Know Gaming actually found the thing in August of last year. Wild!
This is all to say that I’m going to miss what E3 was. I love the idea of all the major game makers coming out of the woodwork at the same time every year and showing us all what they’re up to, and E3 was the unifying place to do that. The good news is it sort of lives on in spirit, just spread out a little further. Digital events are a much easier thing to pull off, and that means more and more folks are doing them, and a lot of them just so happen to take place during the summer right around the same few week period. Last year, PlayStation, Microsoft, and Nintendo all had online presentations withing a few weeks of one another in June/July, and with any luck that’ll be happening again this year.
So I say instead of dancing on E3’s grave, we look back on the good times with fondness and look forward to what the future has to bring. It will never be the same, but maybe one day it will grow to be something even better.