Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity to head down to L.A. to interview E3 2017 himself on behalf of Pardon The Gamer. While I was unable to squeeze out so much as an iota of information about some of the new video games E3 will be unveiling in two weeks’ time from June 13th to 15th, I did manage to obtain some fascinating insight into just what makes the Electronics Entertainment Exposition show tick, year after year.
Alexander: So, before I formally kick this off, I have to ask – would you like to be called “E3 2017,” or just “E3?”
E3: Just E3 is fine.
Alexander: Actually, I’m curious – at what point do you officially transition from being the E3 of one year to the E3 of the next year, like E3 2016 to E3 2017? Does it happen the moment the former one ends, or does to happen once people start seriously discussing you as the latter?
E3: I don’t really care.
Alexander: Why not? I mean, I personally don’t feel like you instantaneously turn into E3 2017 the moment E3 2016 ends, but I also–
E3: Look, I’m really fucking tired right now. I’m literally in the middle of coordinating seven different budget-blowing back-to-back press conferences and getting things ready for an additional 15,000-odd entrants that’ll be attending me come June 13. I’m not interested in wasting my time going over the semantics of my name.
Alexander: Oh…I’m sorry.
E3: Great. Are we done?
Alexander: I’m, uh, afraid not. I have you booked for another 55 minutes.
E3: *Deep breath* Alright, go on. But we’re not discussing my name any more.
Alexander: OK, great! So uh, how about we talk those 15,000 additional entrants. What’s that like?
E3: Well, as you know, in previous years I was only open to members of the video game industry and press. The numbers weren’t bad – last year, I had some 50,300 attendees – but they’ve been consistently down year over year, and with the withdrawal of a couple of major publishers this year, I expected said numbers to be worse than ever come June. So, I decided to make available 15,000 passes to public to bolster numbers, as well as give YouTubers and influencers that make their living off of playing games – but are not members of the industry – a chance to engage in the same sort of activities normally reserved for the press.
Alexander: How much would you recommend buying a show pass if you’re just someone that enjoys video games – not a developer, a games journalist, or a rambunctious YouTuber?
E3: If I interest you, then by all means, take the plunge – but to be perfectly honest, if you’re coming to E3 only so that you can play the latest, greatest products the gaming industry has to offer, you might want to pass on me. I realize that sounds self-injurious, considering that more pass sales means more attendance – and money – for me, but you have to consider that the newest, most exciting games are only going to be shown off behind closed doors to the highest-ranking video game press. And the less-prized games? Expect those to have mighty-long lines.
Alexander: But I’d have to imagine that there will be plenty of exciting displays and installations for people to pose next to. Nintendo practically had a Legend of Zelda theme park to promote Breath of the Wild last year!
E3: Well, yes, but you have to remember that I’m not the only video game convention this year. There’s my brother, PAX, who’ll be hosting a ton of shows throughout the rest of 2017, and will probably recycle many of the displays I’m going to have. There’s Gamescom 2017, my big, German cousin, who’s willing to rent out an entire airplane hanger to promote Activision’s military blockbusters. And then there’s Tokyo Games Show, my Japanese pen-pal that sells day tickets for roughly $10 a pop! By comparison, you’re paying $149-249 if you reserve a three-day pass for me in advance, and $995 if you pay on-site.
Alexander: You really do seem pretty self-injurious when it comes to selling people on you.
E3: Well look, I want to make money and bolster attendance, but I also don’t want people coming away with a bad impression of me. Nothing breeds germs like a sweaty, sleep-deprived gamer in the middle of June, and if my halls are packed like sardines with them, you better believe they’re going to name the ensuing plague named after me.
Moreover, whether people get sick or not from it, I don’t want there to be so many attendees that they end up being stuffed against each other for the entirety of their experience, unable to move. San Diego Comic-con already has that practice down on lock, and I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism.
Alexander: …Moving on, I’d like to touch on a subject you briefly mentioned a little while ago: your seven press conferences.
E3: Right. So as usual, Microsoft, Sony, Bethesda, Ubisoft, and PC Gamer will be hosting their press conferences over the first few days. Devolver Digital, the publisher best known for quirky indie hits such as Hotline Miami and Hatoful Boyfriend will also host its first-ever press conference. And Nintendo, as has been the case for the past five years, won’t host a “traditional” press conference, but rather a Nintendo Spotlight digital presentation.
Alexander: What about EA?
E3: EA, as it were, decided to once again opt out of me and host its own press conference…
Alexander: Ah, I see–
E3:…at the Hollywood Palladium three days before I start! I mean, can you believe that?!
Alexander: I don’t really understand your–
E3: The Hollywood Palladium is literally a hop, skip and a jump away from me! What is it about me that’s so repugnant that would make EA try to spite me like this?
Alexander: I mean, I’m pretty sure that EA hosts its own, off-site event now so that its games can be more easily accessed by ardent fans that are only looking to experience its games, and so that their games occupy the entirety of the Internet’s mind share before the rest of your games are unveiled a few days later–
EA: It’s fucking bullshit is what it is! E3 is supposed to be the time where all video game companies come together to showcase their products in harmony for the good of the gaming masses so that they can come together to make the world a better place through the power of play and consumerism but also mostly play because games are art but there’s the player which is not usually a factor in conventional art and at E3 we let people constantly know that it’s about the player while trying to covertly twist the ever-evolving narrative of the video game industry so that we can get away with a few insidious business practices that might be anti consumer but sometimes are done with the best of intentions but really the point that I’m trying to get across is that amidst the disparity of all the video game companies E3 represents an opportunity for them to all come together and try their hardest to shove their digital proverbial middle fingers up to each other although admittedly Microsoft does kind of get a raw deal because they always host their press conference before Sony and then Sony can immediately 1-up their American-based rival by learning from and responding to what they did right and wrong speaking of right and wrong I while I thought Konami had some questionable press conferences before they stopped doing them altogether I really did like that Fox Engine demo Hideo Kojima did with the Horse and the Boy or was it a fox I don’t really
…and that’s why Genji: Days of the Blade was unfairly sabotaged before it was even released by historical inaccuracy, not critical reception.
Alexander: Are you done yet?
E3: Yes I’m done.
Alexander: Honestly, based on the attitude you’ve subjected me to this entire interview, I get the impression that you’re pretty fed up with yourself, E3.
E3: Yes, I am pretty fed up with myself. But…not completely.
Alexander: How so? What is it about yourself that you still like?
E3: I genuinely love the excitement that I generate. From old, grizzled industry veterans running the show floor to young gamers tuning in to stream my conferences live for the first time, there is nothing like discovering that a long-lost franchise you once loved is getting reboot – or better yet, a sequel – in the form of a CG trailer set to a dubstep song. And yes, sometimes, developers stretch the veracity of their new products, and showcase a version of their game running at a much higher graphical fidelity than what it ultimately puts out at launch six months later. Some developers show off a game with the best of intentions, only for it to completely bomb because it goes in a direction viewed as heretical by longtime fans. Some developers even show off games that are never even released at all!
Alexander: I can definitely think of a few.
E3: But you know what? If I can still generate even a modicum of excitement, a smidge of a heart palpitation as the lights dim and a buttoned-up executive that’s dressed a little too nice for the video game industry comes up on stage and declares “folks, we have some amazing things to show you today,” it’s all worth it.
Alexander: That’s really touching. Before we end, would you mind sharing any details on some of these “amazing things” you’ll be showing off in two weeks–
E3: And that’s the time! Now please kindly get the hell out of my office, I just noticed one of the teamsters taking pictures of the display booths again and need to tell him off.
Alexander: Shouldn’t you also confiscate his phone so that whatever he took a picture of doesn’t leak to the internet?