E3 is the video game industry’s juggernaut trade show. 95bFM’s Kermath has attended the OTT jamboree 4 times over the years. This year he’ll be filing dispatches for The Spinoff chronicling the personalities and cultural forces that coalesce around E3. As a prelude he outlines why this year’s convention will be different and the real reason anyone attends the bloody great big thing.
If you’re even remotely interested in gaming, you’ll know that next week is probably the most important week of your year. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, imagine what it’d be like to attend the Super Bowl of gaming, made up of tens of thousands of exhibitors, media reps and tradesmen, all in the name of video games. The Los Angeles Convention Centre transforms into a semi-permanent Mecca that gaming companies use to showcase new and upcoming video games for the next year to come. The Electronic Gaming Expo is the world’s largest video game trading fair, but what splits it apart from other expos is its exclusivity to the industry. Punters are still able to attend, and many surprisingly do, for a cool USD$995 per 3-day pass.
What’s more surprising though, is that applying for a media pass is actually somewhat easier than one would imagine, provided you have the right creds of course. I specifically remember the overwhelming anxiousness of applying and actually receiving my first press pass in 2013 on the back of my small 7-minute 95bFM gaming podcast. LA is a scary place, especially downtown where the Convention Centre’s based, with homeless sprawling the streets. It’s a combination of that South Park episode where everyone becomes spare-change zombies, and playing GTA V in real life. I had no idea what the fuck I was doing, and if it wasn’t for Daniel Rutledge taking me on as camera assistant for 3 News, I would’ve come home in a box most definitely. We became a dynamic duo, and covered a bunch of incredible interviews over the course of the next two E3’s, including interviews with Shinji Mikami, Vince Zampella and Sean Murray.
This year, E3 is a completely different beast. There is no Dan, no Shinji Mikami, Wargaming, EA, Activision Blizzard, or Disney within the walls of E3. Instead, giants like EA who may have simply outgrown the industry-only event, are hosting free fan-focused spaces nearby the convention centre. Anyone from the public who’s RSVP’d online can rock up to EA PLAY. On the other hand, some of the rest have said that it just doesn’t make sense to show this year, based on their content and the exorbitant price of renting and a running a booth, usually running into the millions.
There’s still the problem of filling these gigantic spaces they once took up in the halls of E3 which may give fresh light to new exhibitors, but it’s possible that Sony and Microsoft’s spaces may expand to compensate for absorbing some of the titles that usually show in the missing booths. One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely going to allow attendees to concentrate on different aspects at E3 this year, namely Virtual Reality gear, and probably have the biggest VR presence that E3’s ever seen. There’s also a ton of rumours about the three main manufacturers pushing new gear, namely Sony with the PS 4.5, Microsoft with its modular console, and the Nintendo NX.
With the absence of some major companies, comes the true reason anyone really goes to E3 – the parties. It’s exactly the opposite of whatever you’re thinking right now. E3 parties, especially Microsoft and Wargaming, are absolutely next level. In 2014, Microsoft put together a launch for Forza 5 with an unannounced band that would play later on in the evening. There were no more than 50 people in the room and none other than The Shins just appear out of nowhere. THE band, right in front of my eyes, that at 16 made me realise there was better music outside The Edge Top 10. The fucking Shins right there, and yet almost no one knew who they were. It’s safe to say I lost my shit.
Last year, the main party was definitely Wargaming, where they’d parked a 1950’s era tank, complete with sexy soldiers just casually next to the sidewalk. Inside a club called The Exchange was endless drinks to the tune of Galantis who had not blown up yet, with tons of weird light-up gear being thrown at the crowd of at least 800 all night.
Parking tanks in weird places is a favourite Wargaming meme, and they usually have one right in front of the convention centre, on top of crushed taxis for selfies, so it’ll be interesting to see what the main attraction will be this year. All of the billboards in downtown LA also transform into ultra-sized gaming ads, so I’ll be sure to report back on the best ones.
This year, my money’s on Twitch, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, or VR Upload to deliver the most talked about party. One of the highlights I’m looking forward to specifically is the ‘Live motion-captured DJ performance with digital avatar’ at VR Upload. We shall see.
You can also definitely expect to see the usual flashy expensive media briefings for Sony, Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Bethesda, where they hire out entire stadiums and play everything extremely big and extremely loud. I’ll be reporting back with a power-ranking of the whole lot once they’re all over; that’s if I make it back.
Oh shit. I might actually die this year.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.