Looking Ahead to E3 2018 as a First-Timer
This is a trade show trip that is quite literally 25 years (give or take) in the making. When I land in Los Angeles in early June and step foot into the LA Convention Center with a press badge strapped around my neck for E3—the Electronic Entertainment Expo, hosted by the Entertainment Software Association—it will be the culmination of nearly three decades of gaming fandom crossed with several years of covering the consumer tech industry that led me to my first-ever trip to this mecca of video gaming.
For my third Christmas on this Earth, my “big gift” was an NES system with the combo game of Super Mario and Duck Hunt. That gateway gaming drug started me down a path that included Super Nintendo, three different versions of GameBoy, Nintendo 64, PlayStations 1, 2, 3, and 4; SEGA Game Gear; PSP; PS Vita; the Wii; and hundreds upon hundreds of software titles to go along with each of those systems. And I know I’m far from the biggest gamer on the planet. Heck, I wasn’t even able to turn my gaming addiction into a career like the kids these days have.
But E3 was always a show that kept me in touch with the latest happenings in this industry. Even in the nearly 20 years since my subscriptions to GamePro and Nintendo Power lapsed, I found ways to stay abreast of what other video game outlets were reporting about the show.
And now, in 2018, I’ll be able to stand alongside them and hopefully learn a thing or two about how this industry is transforming in the age of the smartphone, mobile apps, and esports.
My personal moment aside, there are a number of things that, as a tech journalist, I am legitimately interested in finding out about this show and what goes on there.
How E3 Stacks Up
E3 is a massive show, don’t get me wrong. But it’s far from the biggest tech event on our calendar. A handful of others—IFA and CES in particular—are much more involved, all-encompassing shows that attract more exhibitors and industry professionals. But few show garner as much press in the tech space as E3 does.
Part of the reason for that is the attraction of the Big 3 in gaming and their press conferences during E3. Sony, Microsoft (Xbox), and Nintendo typically like to make a splash at this show, even if they happen to be in the middle of their respective consoles’ lifecycles—like we are right now. PlayStation 5 is probably still a few years away. New Xbox hardware was kind of announced last year, but left analysts with a sour taste. And Nintendo is entering its third E3 with the Switch in its portfolio. Still, these are the names that attract the most attention.
But what else is there? What will an E3 tradeshow floor look like, and how will it stack up against some of the other big-name shows we frequent? My expectation is that it’s going to be a software dominated show, which makes sense. But what other gaming manufacturers will be there, and what will they be showing off? How prolific will the computer gaming peripherals manufacturers be at E3? How big of a role will VR and AR play?
The current list of exhibitors has a lot of familiar names, so I’m really interested to see how these booths (tables?) differ from what I saw just a few months ago—and what I’ll see a week later at our own CE Week show in New York City.
Additionally, this is a show that now, for the second year in a row, will open its doors to consumers. I don’t have the perspective of attending an E3 without consumers, but it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the experience as an attendee. A show like IFA, which does allow consumers to purchase passes, manages that crowd in a way that doesn’t take away from the overall experience—and they actually play up to it by offering evening entertainment in the form of concerts and other events. CES on the other hand doesn’t allow consumers into their show, but the tradeshow floor(s) still manage to seem overcrowded.
E3’s Content Program
Content is really key when it comes to creating a truly exceptional show. And ESA knows that and is clearly focused on doing just that with E3.
Organizers have a few different approaches, it seems like, in terms of how they want to drive content in LA. For starters, there’s the esports experience that ESA is clearly trying to push at E3. Esports has certainly made its presence felt the last few years at the show. But something new this year is the addition of an esports arena with live events at E3.
Developed in partnership with the Electronic Sports League (ESL), the area (located in the South Hall of the LA Convention Center) will host “custom player experiences” related to competitive esports. Actual teams will reportedly be invited to the area to compete in live competitions throughout the show, and the 200-seat arena will give attendees an opportunity to get up close to that action. ESA is currently in the second year of a three-year partnership with ESL.
Then there’s the E3 Coliseum. The “main stage” of E3, this area will host the bulk of the content for E3. According to organizers, the E3 Coliseum will see video game developers, celebrities, and other industry influencers participate in panel discussions, deliver keynote addresses, and give live gaming demos. Elijah Wood—better known, maybe, as Frodo Baggins—will be on stage at some point. The cast of Grim Fandango will perform live. Hideo Kojima, who’s known best for his work on the Metal Gear series, will dive into his creative process as a video game developer. And the list goes on.
As a first-time attendee at E3, I expect to be a little overwhelmed with all of the flare of the show—the myriad game demos, celebs walking around, and other smoke and mirrors. But the tech writer in me knows that there will be plenty to learn and discover at E3. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m really more excited to get there and to get to work than I am to get there and line up to play some games.