Talking Point: Why Gaming Needs E3

A spectacle like no other

It’s the final weekend before E3 2012, and thousands of members of the gaming industry and mainstream press are descending on Los Angeles to attend. It’s amazing that a single convention has risen to such prominence in the gaming calendar, but that’s the status that E3 has earned: while there may be a number of other events and video game conventions throughout the year, few seem to capture the imagination quite like the L.A. behemoth. E3 has become a focal point for publishers, developers and the three main hardware manufacturers to stake claims on our attention and loyalties.

There’s an extraordinary amount of hype around a single three day convention, but it’s an occasion that's invaluable to the gaming industry as it continues to evolve and face new challenges. We’ll look at it from a Nintendo perspective, and ask why E3 is so important to gaming.

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Grabbing the headlines

It seems almost unfair on the many other gaming expos that E3 plays such a dominant role in the year. Events such as the Tokyo Game Show, Gamescom and Eurogamer Expo, to name just three of many, all bring big venues, high-quality organisation and a love of gaming to the table. In terms of intense media coverage, however, they can’t match up to E3, which the gaming media in particular embraces with the fervour that its readers demand. Perhaps it’s the fact that the North American outlets treat it as the year’s conference of all conferences, the glamour of the venue or a mixture of both reasons. Whatever the case, E3 dominates the landscape.

From Nintendo’s perspective, and that of its rivals in the console business, it’s a media extravaganza with levels of exposure that simply have to be exploited. While playing to industry websites such as this one is part of Nintendo’s goal, it will also be keen to win headlines from the mainstream press such as newspapers, TV stations and general technology publications. For news outlets with only a fleeting interest in what’s happening in gaming, E3 can represent a catch-all opportunity to learn about what’s big in the industry right now and in the future, without necessarily following it day-to-day throughout the year.

For attendees at E3, therefore, it’s a chaotic wall of noise as companies chase attention and favour. Nintendo has enjoyed a lot of headlines in recent years after unveiling 3DS in 2010, Wii U in 2011 and now Wii U again this year. Nintendo's efforts last year had mixed success, which takes us to the most significant aspect of E3.

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Major reveals to a global audience

For Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony there’s one big focus at E3: big game and hardware announcements to excite gamers and, hopefully, other consumers looking on. Announcing big-name games or consoles is also a sure-fire way to grab the headlines that we’ve just mentioned, so that explains why much attention is focused on the press conference presentations of each company. In fact, for those looking on from the outside it’s the press conferences that stay in the memory, not necessarily talk of a particular game impressing in a demo booth.

If the conference hall is for attendees, then, the press conference is for those watching from outside. As mentioned earlier, Nintendo has used its last two conferences to show off new consoles for the first time, outside of unexpected leaks and against a backdrop of fevered speculation. Much thought and effort undoubtedly goes into the script for the conference and the accompanying footage that is showed off, which probably means that Nintendo will have been disappointed with some media reaction after Wii U emerged. Some were full of praise while others were confused: is it a tablet to go with the Wii, is it a handheld? Mistakes that will no doubt be avoided this year.

Nintendo is understandably going all-out this year to ensure that its big reveals for Wii U’s launch and, let’s not forget, upcoming 3DS titles will be available to as many people as possible: Facebook, YouTube and its own dedicated website will be showing the event live. While the company often plays it safe in giving others access to stream its broadcasts online — such as Nintendo Direct — the big N has given gaming websites access to the E3 coverage, allowing us to broadcast it here, for instance.

The main point is that through media and the focus of the press conference, and to a lesser degree follow-up roundtables and events, Nintendo can show an enormous audience the gaming entertainment that it offers. It calls the shots, controlling how we see a new game or console for the first time; it’s a vital 75 minutes every year when it comes around.

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Gamers, developers and journalists all together

E3 isn’t just about the big name developers, however, with a number of small studios and publishers also attending with booths and game demonstrations. The preparations for the event often involve plenty of emails and tweets between game writers and these smaller exhibitors to arrange times for interviews and gaming sessions. For smaller developers well known on Nintendo platforms such as Renegade Kid, Nnooo and Gaijin Games, E3 offers an invaluable opportunity to show off their work and get to know those who’ll be telling readers all about their games.

The main purpose of E3, beyond business and networking, is surely to entertain us gamers. There’s a reason that so many enthusiasts get excited at this time of the year; it's because it’s a festival of game reveals, footage and unexpected delights. For those who love video games, E3 is guaranteed to have a number of moments to enjoy.

Gaming needs E3, because there’s nothing else quite like it.

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