The issue isn’t the expo, it’s the expo hosts
Today, the organizers of gamescom announced that Bethesda and Xbox are going to be on the show floor at the biggest expo in Europe. Earlier in the Summer, Nintendo revealed that it too was going to be on the show floor at gamescom for the first time since 2019.
Not to be outdone, the organizers of the Tokyo Game Show revealed that this year’s event is shaping up to be its biggest ever, and will take up the largest amount of space since 2019.
PAX East was sold out most of the days this year, and PAX West is headed down the same path. Nintendo is hosting a mini event on-site there and it’s lottery only. Summer Game Fest’s Play Days were a success, and a myriad of events hosted around LA at that time were extremely well-received by Press and Industry. The pre-pandemic era of gaming conventions seems to be mostly back.
Except for E3.
Once again, E3 was cancelled. Even after bringing in expo experts ReedPop the show was stillborn, dead before it could even see its first day, with companies bailing seemingly all within the span of one week. Next year’s show is up in the air, as ReedPop is no longer involved and the LA Convention Center has been unbooked for the show for both 2024 and 2025.
All of these expos are happening, developers and publishers and attendees are heading to each one –but the original king, the stalwart, can’t pull itself together. It’s not “the show” that’s the problem; people are heading to shows, they’re spending money and flying around the world (albeit not as much). It’s the folks behind the show, the ESA.
Geoff Keighley recently said that his Summer Game Fest didn’t kill E3, rather that E3 killed itself, and he’s right. The last several years of the show (especially prior to the pandemic) E3 was having a difficult time trying to figure out what it wanted to be. Continue to be a trade show for a booming industry? Open it to the public? Allow the exhibitors to recoup some of their funding through merch sales and events? Lean on influencers and streamers? It’s a difficult question, yes, but one that the ESA never seems to want to fully answer, and one that clearly shows the ESA is missing the biggest point: Focus.
The ESA could (and probably should) scale back what E3 is. One positive aspect of Summer Game Fest was that Press and business partners were in town together at roughly the same time, which allowed for quick meetings and lite networking. The “one week to rule them all” is still hugely important, so taking advantage of that, coordinating that, seems to be the best option right now. E3 could be scaled back, pivoting solely to the bizdev and policy side. Let SGF and Xbox and Ubisoft and anyone else have the Media- and public-facing showcases, and let E3, for now, just be meeting rooms with partners, planning and looking forward.
But, sadly, it seems like the ESA doesn’t know how to take that that first step to move forward with E3. For now, at least, it’s still suck in the tar pits, and likely headed towards a self-imposed extinction.