E3’s Death Is Good For Gaming and Bad For Gamers

It was different for the customers. I always got the impression that our regulars relied on their trips to that store more than they may have cared to admit. You even got the sense that, for some of them, the video store was quite possibly one of the only places they visited outside of their home and almost certainly one of the only places they enjoyed visiting outside of their own home. 

I always wondered what happened to them after that store closed. After all, there weren’t really any video stores left. Where did they go? Where did they look forward to going? Did the world feel a little more empty now that this strange kind of temple to their interests and the community they built around it was just gone? It probably sounds silly, but I know it sometimes felt that way for me. It was another in a string of ways the world sometimes seems to ask, “Are you sure this whole (*gestures broadly*) thing is for you?”

If you happen to follow our website (thank you, by the way), you may know I’ve publicly been an E3 doomsayer for quite some time. Privately, I’ve probably been even more adamant about E3’s pending demise. Then again, you never had to look hard to see the signs that E3 has been on its last legs. The pandemic obviously didn’t help, but E3’s problems go back further than that. 

After all, E3 was established in 1995 as an industry event for a much different video game industry. It was a way for consumers, studios, and sellers to create bridges of communication and distribution that had never really been there before. That E3 grew into a spectacle is a testament to both the growth of the industry since that time and the desire for gamers to participate in such a spectacle. 

In its prime, E3 was almost a mythical concept for many. Those too young to get jobs in the industry would try to scheme their way into getting an E3 invite by running hastily assembled blogs designed to help pass them off as proper “media.” I know I did. When you didn’t get to go, you resorted to waiting for updates via dial-up internet connections. They were like transmissions from another world that proved that we were not alone in our universe. Studios were more than happy to fill the show with the latest announcements that they didn’t yet have a better platform for, and the organizers were certainly happy about the money the whole thing drew. The glory days of E3 are closely tied to the commercial necessity of the thing. It was the same with video stores. It’s a realization that shouldn’t diminish the cultural impact of the show or your memories of it. It just…was.

The necessity of E3 was the first thing to go. As coverage opportunities expanded, and the cost of E3 suddenly felt disproportionate to the results, it was pretty easy for studios to justify scaling back and, eventually, remove themselves from the event entirely. Those who remained often battled prolonged development and news cycles that didn’t always gel with what E3 had become. Some resorted to teasing projects years ahead of their intended release (looking at you, Elder Scrolls 6) while the strategy of cooking up “E3 footage” that may or may not represent the final product remained popular for too many years. The whole thing became a burden it was never meant to be. All the while, expectations for E3 remained high. Everyone was still expected to deliver something special, but delivering it in a way that made sense for everyone involved was suddenly much more difficult. 

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