The Painful and Slow Death of E3 is Becoming an Embarrassment to Video Games

I used to love getting a video game magazine in the mail, whether it be Nintendo Power, Expert Gamer, Electronic Gaming Monthly, or Game Informer. It was a once a month mind blow where I got pages of information, galleries of photos, and sweet, sweet reviews regarding my favorite pastime in every issue.

That was once a month. Once a year though, there was an event that was like getting a year’s worth of magazines at one time. They called it E3, and to any gamer who grew up in the 90’s, it was this mythical ceremony beyond comprehension.

However, it’s no exaggeration to say that over the last 10 years or so, the event has been slowly dying. What was a mark your calendar and anticipate sleepless nights in anticipation extravaganza, now resembles more of a begrudging necessity where companies do their best to budget as much flash as possible to blind people to the fact they are mostly seeing the exact titles that they’ve known would be there for months due to leaks, or worse retreads of previously released information to fill time.

Recently the declining event has suffered another traumatic blow when one of the “big three”, Nintendo, announced they would not be putting on a presentation this year, and will resign themselves to a booth. 2K has also stated they will be pulling from the show entirely, while Sony and Microsoft are hosting separate events for their new console reveals, which previously could have only occurred at E3.

The writing is on the wall for the event, and has been for some time. Instead of just bleeding the spectacle though, it is time for E3 to die.

Understand that E3, much like the gaming magazine, was only as big as it once was because video games were not. There was no video game channel, there was no segment on the news concerning them (with few exceptions), and there certainly was no internet in the way there is today. Having a singular large event like E3 that didn’t just acknowledge video games, but glorified them, was not only justified in a different time, it was required.

That of course isn’t the case anymore. Instead E3 is an unfortunate lingering relic of a different time that is being unnecessarily worshiped due to the misguided value placed in nostalgia, and is dragging down the potential growth of the entire industry. The larger companies don’t need it, yet they still feel obligated to put on a big spectacle, and completely drown out the noise that smaller companies could use the time for in the process. Meanwhile the growing numbers of embarrassing presentations have their ridicule magnified much larger than necessary by the inherit spectacle E3 still carries, and the rare previously unannounced great game that can emerge (say like “Watch Dogs”) then spends the next few weeks making rounds on every facet of the internet watering down the initial moment until it might as well have not existed at all.

It’s time for gaming companies to take the cue from Nintendo and 2K and move on. Whether that means companies hold their own shows, or provide more services like Nintendo Direct that allow them a forum for their own exclusive major announcements, it doesn’t matter so long as they are no longer dependent on a few days in Los Angeles to define the course of their next year.

It was as long ago as 2008 when representatives from EA, Ubisoft, and others, were quoted lamenting that E3 wasn’t the profitable gala spectacle it once was, and were contemplating ways to bring it back to prominence. The truth is that if the day ever did exist when that resurgence was still possible, it has now passed. If the gaming industry is still truly fiscally dependent on E3, then it has only itself to blame for not making use of the considerable resources available to forge a new path to greener pastures.

Nintendo has been criticized for living in the past, and being behind the times, but in this move they are truly ahead of the game. It’s hard to say goodbye to something that still manages to entertain, but there has never been a case where relying on the glory days was a benefit to anyone, and it certainly isn’t the case with E3.

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