In recent years, several prominent publishers and developers have opted to skip E3 or hold their own competing events in separate buildings. Disney, Wargaming, EA, and Activision-Blizzard all pulled out of E3, and eventually even Sony pulled out of the 2019 lineup. That said, they’re not ruling out an eventual return to the prominent trade show, but it sounds like there will need to be some changes.
Prior to Sony announcing their departure from E3, they also
canceled their annual PlayStation Experience. Sony admitted at the time that they simply didn’t have enough games in development that had reached a point where they could show them to the public. When they announced that they’d be skipping E3 just a month later, it seemed likely that they didn’t envision themselves being ready to show off games at E3 either.
Speaking in a recent interview with Cnet, SIE Worldwide Studios Chairman Shawn Layden offered a different line of reasoning. While he confirmed that Sony now works on fewer (but bigger) games at a time, the main reason he gave for skipping E3 is that he believes the trade show has failed to evolve since the ’90s and is quickly losing relevance. The solution, according to Layden, is to make E3 more like Comic-Con.
As Layden describes it, E3 used to be a great time and place for Sony to reach out to retailers and journalists in the era before the internet was commonplace. Layden feels that both of these advantages are no longer relevant in the modern age.
Shawn Layden: Now we have an event in February called Destination PlayStation, where we bring all retailers and third-party partners to come hear the story for the year. They’re making purchasing discussions in February. June, now, is just too late to have a Christmas holiday discussion with retailers. So retail has really dropped off. And journalists now, with the internet and the fact that 24/7 there is game news, it’s lost its impact around that.
So the trade show became a trade show without a lot of trade activity. The world has changed, but E3 hasn’t necessarily changed with it. And with our decision to do fewer games — bigger games — over longer periods of time, we got to a point where June of 2019 was not a time for us to have a new thing to say. And we feel like if we ring the bell and people show up here in force, people have expectation “Oh, they’re going to tell us something.”
We are progressing the conversation about, how do we transform E3 to be more relevant? Can E3 transition more into a fan festival of gaming, where we don’t gather there to drop the new bomb? Can’t it just be a celebration of games and have panels where we bring game developers closer to fans?
Cnet: Almost like Comic-Con?
Shawn Layden: Yes, that’s probably the trajectory it needs to go to maintain relevance.
Layden believes E3 should no longer be focused on major game reveals going forward. Nintendo now drops big reveals throughout the year in their Nintendo Direct events (such as the one coming up
later today), but they still hold an E3 conference. Sony used to hold PlayStation Experience in addition to E3…but now they’re holding neither.
Do you agree that E3, in its current form, has outlived its usefulness? Or do you still look forward to that announcement-packed week in the summer? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!