Through All the Noise, E3 Proves its Purpose
The easiest way to describe my first time attending the Electronics Entertainment Expo is to say that it was nothing short of a complete whirlwind. The two and a half days that I traipsed through the Los Angeles Convention Center did a number on me, both physically and mentally. But by the end of it, I feel confident saying that attending E3 2018 was all absolutely worth it.
There’s simply no show like it on the planet. Sure, there are larger and higher-attended consumer tech shows out there. But the experience of being at E3 with nearly 70,000 other gaming enthusiasts is just different. From the atmosphere of the gaming community, to the oversized booths, to the various costume-clad characters running around the floor, this is a show that’s just on an entirely different level.
Admittedly, it’s easy to get lost amid all of that noise and madness that E3 generates. At times, I found myself standing in hour-long lines just to get a crack at the latest demos of games that are still months away from hitting the market. But as you wade through the massive Sony and Nintendo booths and circle around the edges of the cavernous halls and around software-dominated booths, a number of gems can be found on the E3 show floor. In doing just that, E3 proved to me why it is a show that requires the broader consumer electronics retail community’s attention.
Cutting Edge Tech Trends
It’s no big secret that the consumer tech industry typically operates at least a year ahead of where the mass consumer market is, as far as tech trends are concerned. Apple will release a new set of iPhones in a few months, but they absolutely already have their eyes set on products that are another year or more down the line. We have the term ‘early adopters’ in our vernacular for a reason. Some people enjoy the idea of jumping head first into these new trends before they’re widely accepted and maybe even before all of the kinks have been worked out.
So, consider then the video game industry, which is probably another five or 10 years ahead of the curve. Innovation in the gaming space is beyond cutting edge at this point. Gaming companies are pushing the envelope at such a fast pace that we’re having a tough time keeping up.
Take virtual reality as just one example. We’ve taken a number of shots at the technology in the past year, and rightfully so. It’s struggling to gain broader adoption for a number of reasons, be it high cost of entry, a lack of use cases beyond gaming, or poor consumer education around the technology.
However, at E3 a number of companies were there showcasing products that would have you believe this is a must-own technology right now. Cybershoes, for example, showed off a new way to navigate virtual worlds with their shoe attachments. Facebook brought a ton of Oculus gear to E3 for attendees to demo. 1More had a yet-to-be-released VR headset available to demo that provides spatial audio tracking—a really trippy experience that completely immerses the user in a unique way.
These technologies may be years away from reaching the mass adoption with broader consumer market, but they show where things are heading. You have to have a little faith in what the gaming industry is doing to truly grasp and understand the potential here. But then again, it’s not hard to put faith in an industry that’s ballooned to a valuation of more than $108 billion ($36 billion in the U.S. alone).
That’s a lot of potential market cap for the consumer electronics retailer to tap into. And if you’re the one local shop in your area that can give your customer access to those products and trends, then you can get your foot in the door early and help build brand loyalty.
Power of the Demo
The biggest gripe you might hear anyone make about E3 would have to be the amount of time spent standing in lines waiting for a monitor to open up so you can demo a game. Though frustrating, the fact that tens of thousands of grown adults are willing to stand in line just to get a taste of some piece of software or hardware proves just how important the demo can be on the customer experience.
The news that people care about that comes out of a show like E3 has everything to do with the demo. What was Super Smash Brothers Ultimate like? How was the gameplay on The Last of Us Part 2? Was it difficult adjusting to Bloody’s keyboard with the number pad on the left hand side? Whether it’s hardware or software, people want to know what it’s like to use these products and play these games. And the same goes for your customer. They want to experience these things before they buy them.
To go back to the virtual reality example—part of what makes VR such a hard sell is that there really isn’t a great example out there of a company demoing VR correctly in their store. Sure, it might take up a lot of real estate on the show floor. But if customers were given the type of demo that Cybershoes provided right on the show floor at E3, VR would be an incredibly easy sell.
The Role of Esports
As if we haven’t made it obvious in our coverage already, E3 helped to drive home just how important the esports market is to the consumer electronics retail industry. When you see celebrity gamers teaming up with athletes, entertainers, musicians, and more to compete in a Pro-Am Fortnite battle at LA’s new soccer stadium with thousands of spectators surrounding them to watch everything play out on a jumbotron, the message comes through loud and clear.
What esports has done—besides elevate these everyday gamers to celebrity-like status—is it’s lit a spark under some old school product segments and forced them to innovate. Things like headphones, keyboards, mice, computer chairs, and cables are being pushed in directions that you never could have imagined. Esports might not be the full story as to why a company like Marseille decided to reinvent the HDMI cable, but their gaming cable is just one perfect example of how hardware and peripherals on display at E3 are pushing the edge.
Games, at least today, can’t be played without accessories that support the interaction between the user and the console/PC/machine/etc. Those products generate a tremendous amount of revenue every year, and companies continue to find ways to innovate and differentiate themselves. Whereas today kids wear their favorite athlete’s jersey to a sporting event, it may become common (if it hasn’t already) for esports fans to start buying the keyboards and monitors that their favorite gamer opt for. That’s the type of impact that esports is having on this community.
My notes on E3—and perhaps this brain dump of an article—are certainly all over the place. But that’s what E3 did to me. It left my head spinning with ideas for how to truly encapsulate what this show means to the broader consumer tech retail community. Video games have grown up. It’s no longer just about the nerdy kid coming into a store and looking for a new Nintendo game. This industry is bigger than that; it’s bigger than just software titles and a few consoles from the biggest companies. Retailers need to understand that and they need to start tapping into all of the potential that the gaming industry has to offer. And no show exemplifies that than E3.