Gaming industry shows have become the highlight of many gamers’ calendars. The likes of E3, PAX and EGX, to name a few, are renowned for their previews of many large upcoming games, with large shows planned by each publisher to announce their games, and generate high levels of hype for their next triple-A release. As the industry show season is drawing to a close for 2015, it’s time to discuss whether they have the same importance in the industry as previously, and whether the concept of an industry show has now become obsolete.
In today’s world, the main focus of trade shows has slowly drifted away from the playing of games, and more to the “shows” that the publishers put on. The focus of these is to publicly announce new games that will be released and show, often heavily scripted, segments of gameplay from said games, in an attempt to entice the public to buy the game, or create headlines that draw large amounts of publicity to the game.
A major issue with these now is leaks. As the internet has become more and more accessible and knowledgeable, the more “secret” information has been shared, ranging from details about gameplay and story to the fact consoles and games exist at all. The vast majority of triple A games are now leaked before companies even announce them. The point of industry shows was to announce games, but now most of the games that people care about are known to be coming way before the events. While demos are still shown for the game, why not save your business thousands of dollars, and just stream it online, where it can be shared more freely, and it will reach a wider variety of people significantly quicker? Nintendo have already adopted this approach, to reasonable success. While demos are nice, the best bit for me was always finding out about the new game you wanted in a franchise. Now I don’t have to wait for the annual events, just for somebody to leak it online.
Furthermore, the ‘playing games earlier’ perk of attending an event is also dying out. While not all games offer this, an increasing number of games are releasing either open or closed betas to their game for play testing. I can play games such as Rainbow Six: Siege From the comfort of my own bedroom, and not stuck in a warm convention centre surrounded by others and their body odor. I can enjoy these games for days longer than the 20 minutes or so allotted before being hauled off by security. For me, the play element of trade events is now becoming pointless. Many games, especially on Steam, allow for demos to be downloaded and played for an unlimited amount of time, for free, to allow the player to decide whether to purchase the product or not. Why would I want to pay a not-insignificant amount to go to an event to play a game that I can play only a little later than others, from the comfort of my own home?
Nintendo haven’t held a show or even a booth at E3 for two years, and now release all the news they need to online when they want to. This must save them significant amounts of money, and they are not noticeably losing sales due to the lack of publicity. As perhaps one of the most renowned developer/publishers in the industry, they no longer have to rely on trade shows, and spread their news through other streams for press releases. It is likely that other large publishers, such as Ubisoft, could also do the same, allowing more room for the smaller indie developers at the shows. It would appear that even Nintendo are questioning the relevance of a trade show anymore.
Despite all this, there are still some benefits of a gaming industry show. The announcement of games still provides massive boosts in the hype for a product, which will help boost the sales of the game in the long run. Consoles also receive their major reveals at trade shows. This is where shows, a bit like political rallies, still hold some degree of use. They are the best way for companies, notably Microsoft and Sony, to present their product, clearly displaying all the consoles perks in a concise manner. Apart from this, there is little to my knowledge that is still relevant or efficient about them, apart from the experience they offer. The experience will be a selling factor for many, hence why the events will still continue.
Trade shows have now become largely irrelevant with new alternatives being a better replacement to events, such as streaming, or even just videos on a video streaming service such as YouTube. Many of these are possibilities, but it is yet to be seen whether they will ever be used. Only time will tell.