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Blog: E3 2017 Reflections and the State of Video Game Coverage

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The circus is over, the massive booths have been torn down, and apparently the BET Fan Fest is taking over the L.A. Convention Center this weekend.  E3 2017 was an odd one, not only because the “public” was there – given how many friends and family of industry people regularly show at E3 it’s a bit of a stretch to not put scare quotes around public – but because the industry itself is in a state of flux.  We saw record numbers of attendees, approximately 78,000 compared to the roughly 55,000 we typically see, and with the inclusion of the public came astronomical lines and big ugly neon green lanyards that basically said “avoid me.”  At the same time there was rampant coverage of the show from so many angles instead of a set group of major web sites who are all friends with each other and the public relations reps they meet with that overall cast a much more positive light on E3.  Listening to coverage from Polygon, IGN, and Giant Bomb it was clear that the media hadn’t changed its tune, mostly dogging on a majority of what was shown, but what shocked me most was the take on the public presence.  It was also a turn for the convention as a whole given that the ESA (the entity behind E3) now has to adjust the way the whole show is handled and I think we’ll see the emergence of a large public show to rival GamesCom in Europe or Tokyo Game Show in Japan.  As a person who went with the “pleb pass” (public pass) instead of applying for a media pass, which I’m fairly certain I would have gotten, the whole show confused me.  I’ll come out and say it: I don’t understand where video game media coverage is at right now.  Despite this fact, I have some thoughts on the key topics from E3 2017.

The Public Presence and Games Media

Boy am I sick of hearing about this one.  Games media has to stop talking about the public because it simply doesn’t have the propensity to understand the public.  The industry is flooded with people who have been doing this so long that they can’t imagine a world where they didn’t grow up with access that people would gladly sacrifice money and time to have.  When a random gamer is willing to pay $1300 to have No Mans Sky at the same time that the press got it, we start to understand the disconnect between media and public.  Yes, we are fine waiting hours to play a demo at E3 and yes it matters that we have a shirt that says you were at E3.  We don’t expect you to understand, so stop trying.  As a former member of games press, a journalism major, and now a mere games blogger I’d just like to say to the games media: butt out.  I don’t need you representing or interpreting me or the rest of the games.  Also to anyone in games media that says the public shouldn’t be present, let me remind you that E3 started as a show where game companies schmooze retail buyers to sell games, not to parade titles around for the press to play.  Later on the press became an integral part of E3, and like it or not the same thing is starting right now with the public.  Deal with it.

Aside from the press being annoyed by us, I’m also quite fed up with what I heard coming out of E3.  Games press people were attacking each other, calling each other out, bickering, and overall acting like entitled jerks at E3.  If you want the best proof, look no further than any discussion on Giant Bomb’s E3 night programming and the things said when the “outlet” hodgepodge got together, especially night two.  There was a brand new writer in particular on that show that was speaking far too big for her britches about a myriad of things she clearly doesn’t understand.  It extends beyond that though.  Look, I get that the public presence prevented you from getting to your appointments effectively or getting to waltz up and play a demo you hope to cover, but that’s life.  I work at a hospital and sometimes I’m late for a meeting and while dashing past the elevators I have to stop to answer a patient’s question or help a family member find a specific room.  The public is involved in all of our jobs and part of your role for any company is properly handling that situation without complaining like a child.  Also all of these outlets had appointments and these games were catered to, just not by every person.  What I saw more than IGN or Gamespot not getting appointments with companies was actually someone playing a demo at an appointment and then someone else from that outlet not being able to go check it out later after hearing positive feedback.  That’s why companies send teams and not individuals to E3.  You may just have to deal with the fact that only one or two people from your outlet will get one shot to play a demo and then live with that.  One more thing, you know that pesky public that’s getting into your craw so much?  Those are your readers and the people who engage with your site to keep your job secure, please don’t forget that.

Finally a note for the smaller sites and the negative influencer propaganda.  Smaller sites need to do work, set up relationships, and basically get dragged through the mud before establishing a solid connection with a company.  I talked to plenty of up-and-comers who got media passes and were frustrated that those passes didn’t let them automatically cut to the front of a demo line or get an appointment.  I was at a bar on night one and a grumbling writer from a site I didn’t know was saying that he couldn’t play games outside of lines because he didn’t “know anyone” at the show and didn’t get invited to appointments.  I told him that his job for the rest of the show was to run around and pass his card out to anyone and everyone at the show floor that he’d like to work with and bend over backwards to get appointments at any time he could.  His face sank, he looked depressed, and he glanced at my public pass and seemed confused.  That’s the hustle, kids, if you want to cover E3 you are going to have to use one year to get on everyone’s radar and the second year you can start with appointments.  At the same time influencers were out in force shoving everyone around, getting rockstar treatment, and honestly not doing a good job at being unbiased.  Well that’s what they are there for, isn’t it?  Bethesda doesn’t want the next influencer that’s all concerned about how ethical they are being or what they say about a game, they want someone who has 1 million+ people who are entertained to see them pumped about a game.  Come to think of it, the influencers were probably doing the best work out of E3 coverage this year despite annoying the hell out of me with the way they do things.

So in short, the media needs to just go on doing its thing and worry a lot less about the public.  E3 now will integrate the public, it no longer caters to just you, and you’ll have to learn to live with it.  The same is true of the media’s tolerance of buyers (the true client at E3), influencers (probably still more of an E3 client than the media at this point), and the public.  It’s not just your picnic anymore, get over it.  On the other hand I have one final note for the public.  You are not the audience for the Press Conferences, you don’t need to be there, and you shouldn’t be.  Even though I had three press conference invites this year, I had no business being at any of them.  The public’s spot for the press conferences is on their couches watching on gorgeous 1080p/4K displays with fast internet and nowhere near the crowded theaters they take place in.  Remember that.  As someone who has gone to all of the press conferences in the past, let me assure you it’s better from the couch.

The State of Video Games in 2017

We are now officially entering year 4 of this current generation cycle.  In the past this was the final year for some consoles (Xbox/Gamecube) and for others it’s the dead center (360/PS3), but I think it’s safe to say this generation will reflect the latter.  Not only because the consoles themselves haven’t had much opportunity to strut their power but also because of iterative upgrades like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.  A lot of people said that this year was a stagnant one for games development, especially when you consider that almost everything at Sony’s press conference was there last year and almost everything is slated for 2018.  On the Microsoft front Xbox is trying to fight back, but clearly not with the competitive vigor that Sony is displaying, and frankly I saw no exclusives to make a PS4 owner toss aside their console and library of games to go green.  So yeah, if you’re wearing console blinders that focus on the “the big two” I guess that statement is accurate.  Many also grab hold of the fact that it’s nothing but sequels and clones, to which I respond, “what were you expecting?”  This generation’s foundation was remastered versions of all the games beloved from last generation – and in all fairness that was a hell of a generation – so I think I can handle cloned concepts, genres, and sequels over a $60 re-sell of something I already own.  On top of that I’m excited to get my hands on sequels like the next God of WarWolfensteinThe Evil Within, and even Assassin’s Creed.  These stories have only just begun and if a studio feels confident in keeping them alive, so be it.  Needless to say with titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn there’s plenty of room for new I.P. but I’d be lying if I wasn’t just as thankful for the masterful Resident Evil 7.  These titles can co-exist, I’ve seen proof.  Also in regards to the PS4 Pro vs. Xbox One X debate: who cares?  I have a 4K TV, I’ve spent a lot of freaking money to get it, and you bet I’m going to put both of these 4K machines under my TV.  I’m betting most people who shelled out $2,000+ for a 4K TV will do the same.  For the rest, you don’t need these upgraded consoles and there’s little reason to obsess over it.  Moving away from the twin powerhouses, it’s a completely different story on PC and Nintendo’s Switch.  PC is still running strong and doing exactly what it’s always done by making unique experiences.  These are the games that will almost never come to console, require time and effort, and probably have you hunched over a smaller screen on a desk instead of having your back eased into a couch.  Sure, the PC can do console games too, but it’s those niche titles like Battletech and Age of Empires that you rarely see migrating to the console front.  In addition PC is the home for random indie development, especially with the audience moving away from just scanning Steam and branching out to other areas like itch.io, gog.com, newgrounds, and several other platforms for non-traditional concepts.  As for the Nintendo Switch, we saw a slew of games announced that almost completely make up the Nintendo catalog.  In addition, both indie and third party titles are joining the ranks and we’ve even got a decent lineup for 2017, something both Microsoft and Sony are struggling to make good on.  You can slam the Switch all you want, but customers are buying it up and Nintendo is trying to make sure it has solid titles on the docket this holiday season, and with Mario Odyssey alone October stands to be a heck of a month for the Switch.  In fact, it’s probably the best lineup since the one I saw at my last E3 in 2010.  I’ll give you VR though, that’s in a sad state.  Floor demos were more tech-focused than ever, no one has figured out movement outside of a small space, and those big name titles you want on VR like Skyrim and Fallout 4 are a mess of an experience.  I jumped off the VR train and I’m feeling more confident about that choice every day.  VR will become part of the gaming pantheon, but not anytime soon because it needs to evolve first.

Looking back on it, sure, the show can be considered stagnant by the dismissive but to me gaming is very much alive.  We’re simply seeing longer development times and a wider spread of the audience, which results in delays and sequels to make up for lost time and revenue.  Also to close on VR, consider this: both motion controls and 3D were seen as gimmicks from last gen but ironically they are critical to the VR experience.  When you put that into perspective you start to see that while VR in its current state may not be around, the current state is most likely just a building block of a larger and better vision.  With a strong VR delivery method, motion controls, and 3D, we’re almost at a point where virtual reality stops being a novelty and starts to become a real possibility.

Will I Be Going Back?

I don’t think so.  I’m not a media presence at these events and it’s an exhausting hustle even if you are.  E3 is not the party that the industry plays off, it’s a bunch of in-crowd “who you know” groups that don’t mesh with those covering the show outside of the veterans.  As a public person I’m just not that interested in playing games early anymore, especially when they are mere months away and my backlog is a mile long.  I’m 35, I have a house and a family, and I don’t work in that world professionally.  Now if I did, was still in college, or single I most definitely would go back, it was a blast.  Personally, I really like the coverage I was able to give last year with my All Games family and we did a hell of a job covering E3 2016 if I do say so myself.  I do better work from home and then I get a stay-cation to play a ton of games to get my psyched for the titles revealed at E3.  If you’ve never gone, have the means, and want to see what all the fuss is about, I highly recommend giving it a try.  Your friends and co-workers don’t care, but you’ll know deep down inside that you got to finally see E3.

What do you think?  Feel free to leave comments below or shoot us a direct e-mail here.

Written by Fred Rojas

June 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Blog

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One Response

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  1. E3 is about dancing and musical performances now. Games? Those are too retro, get with the times!

    Andrew

    June 24, 2017 at 6:15 am


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