It’s that time of year again! With only a week to go until the single biggest date in the gaming calendar – at least until November – every games producer, developer or PR teamster and his or her dog is in full crunch mode, preparing for the most crucial PR moment of their respective games’ short lifespan. New details on the next iterations of games we all know and love are coming out of the woodwork, and arcane words believed to be the unannounced titles of games we’ve yet to hear of hang loosely on the tip of everybody’s tongues. For gamers, E3 is like the Superbowl, except with less of the people running around throwing a dead pig and a whole lot more half-time ads. It’s like gamer Christmas, except that instead of getting physical presents, you get to see what you’ll be getting as presents for actual real genuine Christmas.
But maybe you didn’t know all this already; maybe you live under a rock, maybe you’ve spent a few years paying attention to other important things in your life, like raising a kid or making sure that you’re not spending your days working overtime at a job that you hate. Heck, maybe you’re just not a terrible nerd that obsessively follows the gaming industry as if it were the centre of the universe. That’s all cool, but if you’re going to be engaging fully in the E3 festivities there are a good number of things you probably need to know. Like with any sport, going into things without knowing the rules can lead to a sub-par experience.
Part one of a series of articles aims to give you all the information you need to get the most out of the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo, providing enough information and context to give you some idea of what’s going on, and to provide you with enough fodder with which to pass you off as knowledgeable in the subject amongst your friends and colleagues. Why exactly you’d ever need such information is anyone’s guess, but we’re doing this anyway.
So, what is E3?
E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is the single biggest event in the gaming industry calendar; an utterly massive industry convention where all of the biggest games companies reveal all of the biggest games they have in development to the biggest crowd of journalists imaginable in Los Angeles’ biggest convention centre. As a result, the internet quickly becomes inundated with announcements, screenshots and trailers for every game you never knew you wanted but can’t believe won’t be released for another six months. Essentially, if you have any interest in playing games, watching other people play games (which I believe is currently en vogue), making games, or being weirdly obsessed about the internal workings of the industry, then paying some degree of attention to E3 is a must.
For the attendees, E3 takes the form of a massive hall full of stands advertising and demonstrating the most up to date and future releases from several hundred development houses, encompassing everything from massive blockbuster titles like Call of Duty and obscure little indie darlings, to the new software and hardware technologies that might just be powering the next generation of both. For those of us stuck at home for the week however, E3 is a smorgasbord of game announcements, trailers, gameplay videos and developer interviews.
Whilst the E3 convention itself takes place over a rather brief three day period, this period of utter chaos is preceded by a series of press conferences held by each of the console manufacturers and two of the biggest publishers in the industry. Ideally, you need to grab some popcorn and watch live broadcasts of each of these keynotes; these press conferences are the jewel in the crown that is E3, in that they’re gaudy and colourful at a glance, but incredibly dull to stare at for hours on end. Still, like any decent spectator sport, it’s as much about the crowd culture as it is about the show itself, and there is some genuine entertainment to be had by following both the live feeds and the commentary of friends and associates over the social network of your choice.
So, what do I need to prepare?
Ideally, you should be looking towards having most of the following ready for Monday 9th June;
- A computer connected to the internet.
A tablet or a games console will probably suffice, but for the serious E3 spectator the option to multi-task and the highest level of compatibility between the various video sites hosting content is a must-have. A computer, a tablet and a games console simultaneously is even better. If you’re on a metered internet service, make sure you have plenty of credit left, as there’s a lot of streaming involved.
- Somewhere comfortable to spend most of the day.
If you want to watch all of the press conferences live you’ll probably need to be spending most of the first day in the same location. Between the waiting for each event to start, watching events and waiting for the next event, you’ll be racking up around 10 hours of completely wasted time this year.
- Snacks, drinks, energy drinks.
If you’re in the UK, you’re going to be up past 3am. Sugar and Caffeine are your friends, as is occasional exercise throughout the day.
- A seriously high level of tolerance for PR spiel, patronising nonsense and utter bullcrap.
If I was in charge of the E3 press conferences, they would all just be a series of game announcements and demonstrations displayed one after the other. They aren’t. Dear god, they really aren’t.
- A social network account.
Actual living friends will also suffice, but for the maximum enjoyment of E3, the ability to rant at the entire world is always the best option.
- Some other form of entertainment
There’s going to be a lot of waiting involved, and not all of it can be spent arguing with idiots (ie, people who don’t share your opinions) over Twitter. This is a very good time to catch up with something in that massive backlog of games you have sitting around. Don’t look at me like that, I know you haven’t played everything you own yet. Get on that. Otherwise, Minecraft is always a good time-filler as it actually feels productive when it’s patently not.
So, I have all the stuff I need; point me in the right direction.
This year, there will be four live presentations (from Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony) and one pre-recorded transmission (from Nintendo). The press conferences are all scheduled to take place on Monday 9th June, starting at 9:30am Pacific Time (5:30pm UK time) and finishing sometime after 7:00pm PT (3:00 in the goddamn morning in the UK).
You can generally find the larger, better funded gaming sites such as IGN and GameTrailers have their own feeds for each of the press conferences – usually along with extra coverage, including commentary and completely superfluous interviews, much like with sports coverage – whilst some of the companies themselves also host their own feeds. Generally, it’s good to make sure you have at least a couple of different sources for each beforehand as the feeds can sometimes get a little too crowded and become unreliable. If you’re in the states and receive Spike TV, they will be broadcasting at least some of the press conferences live (they’re certainly going to be showing the Microsoft and EA pressers), but as I have absolutely no idea what a Spike TV is, working that one out is up to you.
Tomorrow: A brief history of E3!