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When is E3 going to be fun again?

It's me, the joy-ruiner

A couple of months ago, Imogen asked if we need E3 anymore. And I have been thinking about this question a lot. It comes up pretty regularly, and has done basically since E3 started, along with whether E3 is going to last for much longer. It's been nearly 30 years now. But, as Alice0 pointed out to me as we surveyed the smoking wreckage of our desks after E3 2021, this industry is loathe to let things die if it can help it. Even if E3 did eventually end it would be repackaged as a spiritual successor a few years later, possibly called Two Point Expo or similar. So perhaps another question to think about is: will E3 ever be as fun as it used to be?

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Ah, it used to be a great time, didn't it? There were only three shows you had to care about, really: XBox, PlayStation and Ninty. How exciting, to look at the t-shirts Phil would be wearing under his blazer! The thrill of seeing what weird screen setup the stages would have! I remember the unveiling of the 3DS, which was like being told Miyamoto had successfully transmuted lead into gold, and it could be yours for a mere 250 bucks. That was over a decade ago. And the 3DS got discontinued last year. And is not a PC, so I shouldn't even be talking about it.

Back in what I am staunchly refusing to refer to as the good old days, there were fewer options, so all the big publishers put their stuff in the platform-holder shows. Practically that meant Xbox or PlayStation, cos Ninty were and are mostly first party pals. You were guaranteed to see something that made you go "Woah!" several times a night. The banner announcements were also admirably theatrical. I feel lessons were learned from the Kinect briefing, but I wish they'd be unlearned again (side note: pitch to Graham that we find and interview the child from that showcase).

Key art for Redfall, showing a vampire crawling on the ground towards the camera while four heroes wield weapons and magic in a pose behind it.
Genuinely well hyped for Redfall

These days, because everything leaks when it accidentally gets listed on Brazillian Amazon, or beacuse Sony's office wifi password is KN4CK, it feels like we know what we'll see announced. That's not necessarily the ESA's fault, but it does mean there's less of the capacity to surprise. Plus even if you don't you can't be sure that the same game isn't going to show up at every single show. Developer shows like Ubisoft and EA's efforts aren't unfun, really - Ubisoft in particular still fully commit and usually have their Just Dance troupe dressed as strawberries and wool, that kind of thing - but E3 might just be a victim of its own, and others', success.

This year can't be judged to the standard of others, of course, because it was online due to the pandemic, and people just made less stuff this year. That's fine. I won't have a go at people for that. But even without that, it feels like with each year that passes, E3 prime is eclipsed by stuff like Geoff Keighley's Circus Of Games, and that the ever-growing list of live events attendant to E3 weekend saps your desire to watch any of them. But I don't want that! Things like Wholesome Direct are a necessary injection of indie enthusiasm, and I want to enjoy it.

Weezer in the music video to Buddy Holly.
Shout out to Geoff Keighley for giving these up and comers a shot at publicity during the Summer Game Fest

It makes me feel like a "jaded old ma'am yells at cloud" type, and I don't want to be. I got flashes of proper surprise excitment this year, like the reveal of Redfall and all the other remakes of Left 4 Dead. I believe that E3 does have the potential to be a carnival of fun again. Personally I think the ESA should just submit to the inevitable and subcontract the whole thing to Geoff, who can do one huge four hour show and get exactly the same amount of excited about FromSoft games, and about tiny indie games about bears and ice cream.

Tell me what you think. Can E3 be proper fun again? What does it need to do to get back to that again? Or do you think it still is and I'm just grumpy at having to stay up late to see the same trailer for Jurrassic World Evolution 2 about a million times?

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