This week, Sony confirmed that it would be skipping E3 for the second year running despite the fact that it is launching a new console in 2020 – an occasion you'd normally assume would be reason enough to attend the world's most influential gaming event.
Amid speculation that Sony and the organisers of E3 have fallen out, Microsoft was quick to proclaim that it would be throwing its full weight behind E3, so it would be fair to assume that the company will be holding its traditional press conference and doing everything it can to hype up the forthcoming Xbox Series X console, which will be going head-to-head with Sony's PlayStation 5 at the close of 2020.
It's hard to deny the fact that E3's importance in the gaming calendar has diminished over the past few years
Caught in the middle of all of this is Nintendo, which was ironically the first of the big three to abandon the traditional live E3 press conference format in favour of a pre-recorded 'Digital Event' broadcast around the world on YouTube. Despite this change, Nintendo has remained committed to E3 and has made the most of its time on the show floor via a series of live demonstrations of new games, as well as some amazingly-designed stands over the past few years.
However, with so many other gaming shows popping up all over the globe, it's hard to deny the fact that E3's importance in the gaming calendar has diminished over the past few years – and having the market-leading company abandon it entirely isn't good news. Sure, games which are coming to PS5 will still be on display thanks to Sony's strong connection with the industry's most prominent third-party publishers, but for Sony itself to shun the event entirely and not even have a stand speaks volumes.
While Microsoft has predictably used this news to draw focus on its own preparations for E3, Nintendo has yet to comment, but there's no reason to expect the company won't be attending – and we'd imagine that it will be a very similar setup as the past few years. But for how much longer will this be the case?
E3 is a tremendous event, but also one that is costly to attend, and with the big three moving towards more controlled (and cheaper) alternatives like scheduled 'Direct' video events – which arguably have a much larger reach – is a glitzy, expensive show like E3 really necessary in 2020, especially when there are multiple alternatives available, such as the Tokyo Games Show, PAX, Gamescom (the latter of which, in terms of footfall, is actually bigger than E3) and many more? Most of these rival shows, it should be noted, are focused on gamers rather than those in the games business – an important distinction to make when you remember that E3 is a trade event that has, in recent years, opened its doors to the general public.
Nintendo has hastened the demise of the event as the biggest week in the industry's calendar, but whether or not that means the company will walk away from it entirely remains to be seen
Ironically, you could argue that by turning its back on the tried-and-tested E3 press conference format (a move that even third-parties, like EA, have since followed suit on), Nintendo has hastened the demise of the event as the biggest week in the industry's calendar, but whether or not that means the company will walk away from it entirely remains to be seen. Microsoft, keen to claw back as much ground as possible, clearly feels that supporting E3 as much as possible allows it to set itself apart from Sony, which could, in some corners, be seen as the 'bad guy' which has abandoned the traditional high point of the year for many players.
Where does Nintendo fit in this picture? Could the company benefit more from focusing on gamer-led events and avoiding the hustle and bustle of E3? Is E3 even still relevant, given the rise of shows like The Game Awards, which are now used by publishers to make exclusive announcements "on the cheap" that would ordinarily have been saved exclusively for E3? Has the emergence of YouTube changed the way companies connect with their audiences, or could E3's evolution into a more public-focused show mean that it becomes an even bigger deal in future years?
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