E3 is dead. Will CES be next?

By Microsoft 14 Min Read
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The Electronic Entertainment Expo, maybe essentially the most over-the-top and pompous occasion ever designated as a commerce present, is no extra. E3 has been a staple of the gaming calendar for over twenty years, showcasing the most recent in gaming {hardware} and software program each summer season. But it was officially declared dead by ESAwithin the wake of the lower in commerce festivals worldwide post-Covid pandemic.

The finish of E3 wasn’t precisely stunning, because it hadn’t held a reside occasion in particular person since 2019. But the closure of such a high-profile occasion has some folks questioning: Is CES the occasion of highest profile within the electronics {industry}? , subsequent on the chopping block? I don’t imagine. Let’s discover why.

E3 has outlived its usefulness

For a gaming {industry} rising by leaps and bounds within the late ’90s and early 2000s, E3 was a crucial showcase for just about each main participant. In addition to smaller regional reveals just like the Tokyo Game Show and the Game Developer’s Conference, it was a chance for recreation publishers, builders and {hardware} producers to take to an enormous stage and showcase their upcoming works on to the most important press gathering . The press then relayed the information to gamers all over the world, by the medium of print magazines and the onset of on-line information.

origin 1E3 Expo (Electronic Entertainment Exposition) on the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California on June 17, 2015

Glenn Francis/Wikimedia

Here’s the factor that many individuals neglect about E3: it was initially simply an industry-organized occasion aimed on the press. Because within the 90s and 2000s that is how you bought gamers’ consideration. Budgets for direct promoting on TV and in public bulletins may solely go to date. If you wished to unfold the phrase and get folks excited, you needed to do it ink, in magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly, GameProfessional, Computer Gaming World, and dozens of different focused publications. You then doubled down on this technique with print advertisements in the identical magazines.

If you are my age or older, you possibly can most likely see the place this was going. The rise of the online not solely killed the print {industry} and the print department of video games printing, however created a sea change in how video games have been marketed. As the gaming {industry} grew sufficient to start promoting straight on prime time TV and even alongside Hollywood motion pictures, online advertising allowed advertising and marketing to increase into each side of our lives.

origin 1Before on-line gaming information was ubiquitous, gaming magazines flocked to E3 for protection.

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Suddenly players have been seeing advertisements for brand new titles subsequent to their social media feeds as they bought sneakers or paid payments. Soon, easy animated advertisements gave solution to full-blown trailers on YouTube, directing players to personalised promotional web sites. With the arrival of Steam and digital console shops, recreation publishers may promote a brand new recreation, promote it, and ship it, all with out having to contain the press in any manner. It was a dream come true, until your dream was to be a online game journalist.

There is nonetheless a gaming press, as a result of there is nonetheless a gaming group. But the press is not the {industry}’s crier. It has fallen again into its function as a buffer between the individuals who make video games and the individuals who play them. You’ve most likely seen that whereas gaming websites and channels nonetheless cowl information about bulletins and releases, they are much extra targeted on researching and highlighting obscure indie video games, posting critiques and editorials, and masking {industry} information sort protection that publishers typically want. It didn’t make any news at all.

This shift in press makes a direct, centralized occasion like E3 much less related. Why would a writer spend a lot time and vitality, and naturally cash, courting a couple of thousand journalists? It’s far more environment friendly to easily put up a trailer on YouTube and spend that cash on direct promoting. There’s probability that, should you’re a large enough developer, gaming information websites will do that Still put up about it, particularly in case your PR division provides them some push through e mail.

YouTube killed the sport present

Don’t get me unsuitable, there is nonetheless a marketplace for a centralized show of every part publishers have to supply gamers. But these occasions are actually smaller, extra focused and more and more managed by a single firm.

Nintendo’s Direct, a mini-presentation displaying all the brand new Switch video games the corporate has deliberate for the subsequent few months, is an ideal instance. Nintendo Direct proven, properly, straight to thousands and thousands of followers all over the world with out the necessity for recreation printing. (Though the press continues to cowl it anyway!) And it is also able to be launched every time Nintendo feels prefer it, forgoing the necessity to have a selected venture able to be revealed at E3 or Space World. Gaming corporations would comply with within the footsteps of Apple a couple of decade earlier, which nonetheless organizes its personal occasions round each massive new announcement, kind of in line with its personal calendar.

Other corporations like Sony, Microsoft, and even smaller corporations like Devolver Digital have emulated this profitable mannequin, displaying off collections of video games and devices in on-line debuts, typically with none kind of real-world occasion. The shift from massive, bombastic in-person shows to extra environment friendly and efficient internet marketing was already diminishing E3’s relevance within the mid-2010s. By the time of the Xbox One and PS4, Microsoft and Sony have been already utilizing their very own pre-events. -show to focus on new {hardware} bulletins, and Sony and Nintendo had all however deserted any main presence on the present by 2019.

E3 sought to transition right into a generalized spectacle, resembling a Comic-Con-style celebration greater than an unique occasion, trying to draw the sort of fan attendance that makes reveals like PAX a significant draw to this present day. It additionally opened its doorways to anybody who wished to attend in 2017. But with attendance from the {industry} that made E3 well-known within the first place steadily declining, the proverbial writing was on the wall.

With international journey paralyzed in 2020, E3 “went digital.” But at this level just about all the key gamers moved to direct on-line shows, so there was no cause to look to the ESA to offer one thing that advertising and marketing departments may do themselves. The largest occasion within the online game calendar died three years later.

What makes CES totally different?

Will the Consumer Electronics Show comply with in E3’s short-cut footsteps? I don’t imagine. While the pandemic has actually dealt a blow to CES (being an enormous worldwide affair in January 2019, it most likely performed a small function within the preliminary unfold of the pandemic!), the essential factor to recollect is that CES is not nearly digital press.

As each a member of the press and a voracious client of laptop and electronics information, it is easy for me to placed on blinders and focus solely on what straight impacts customers. After all, this is the principle aim of PCWorld and most of its on-line competitors. But this is simply the tip of the iceberg, each for the {industry} as a complete and for {industry} occasions like CES particularly.

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Consumer Technology Association

For each CES story you examine a great new gadget, there are 100 extra that are not coated, as a result of the present ground has a lot occurring that it is actually unimaginable for even the most important consumer-centric websites to see all of it. And I do not simply imply the large gamers, with their enormous stands greater than most individuals’s houses.

CES is attended by actually hundreds of corporations displaying off their newest merchandise, from LG and Samsung that take up more room than a automotive dealership to small worldwide startups that would ship only one particular person and a folding desk. You may spend the complete week in Las Vegas simply perusing the smaller, sweatier aisles, the place folks from everywhere in the world collect to see every part from self-sealing stem bolts to reverse ratchet cutters.

Under the iceberg

And these are simply the issues on public show. CES extends from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the entire enormous surrounding accommodations, with pockets of smaller displays and occasions all through the Las Vegas Strip going down all week. This is the place corporations that do not have the price range or manpower to go on to customers hope to get a couple of tales printed by journalists hungry for the news on what their rivals have not coated. And basically, it is the sort of protection you possibly can’t discover by shopping YouTube.

But even taking a look at these smaller, extra distant corners of CES and different comparable commerce reveals will not present you the complete image. Because CES is not an occasion geared toward customers, or not less than aimed solely at them. There’s a business-to-business side of the present that we by no means get to see — and by “we” I imply each the authors and readers of articles like this.

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CES is the place a distant management producer from Taiwan can meet with a TV producer from Japan and determine that they may supply button membranes from a German rubber provider. It’s the place a mid-level supervisor at Company A would possibly find his former colleague at Company B and change enterprise playing cards (sure, on useless tree paper) and return three years after beginning his personal consulting agency. These and different connections occur hundreds of occasions a day on these reveals, the sort of connections that merely cannot be replicated anyplace however in particular person.

Although CES stumbled through the pandemic, it became relevant again much faster than any present with out this deeper industrial element. The CEA expects 130,000 attendees for 2024, considerably decrease than 2017’s report, however nonetheless bigger than final yr and by far the most important occasion within the {industry}. It’s simple to have a look at CES and see indulgent cubicles and big crowds. But crucial choices, the essential elements that make it worthwhile as extra than simply an annual megaphone, occur behind closed doorways.

As lengthy as these doorways have worth, CES and different reveals prefer it aren’t going anyplace… barring the occasional international disaster, after all.

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