E3 2019 – The Elephant Not in the room

E3 2019 has drawn to a close. It remains to be the King of Games Industry events, but is its Crown slipping?  Any regular attendees to the show would be forgiven for thinking that, when viewed from the outside, all was as usual at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  All entrances to the show were adorned with the usual marketing imagery from the year’s biggest games and every vestige of available space was crammed with branded inflatables and marquees to entertain the masses. Inside though, the story was very different.

With Sony, Activision, EA, and many others electing to stay away from the show floor, the show seemed to be a shadow of its former self. Even XBOX stayed away from the show floor, again preferring to take up a presence at the Nokia theatre next to the Staples Center.  It was just a short walk away, but metaphorically, it could have been several miles, further fracturing the event itself. But in the end it didn’t – E3 as a brand is a far bigger than the show itself, and continued to flourish online where millions tuned into the hugely lavish press conferences that have become a staple of the show itself.

One of the biggest moment’s of this year’s show was the XBOX press conference, the highlight of which was the new trailer for ‘Cyberpunk 2077’. The hugely impressive CG trailer was a major marketing beat for a game which was first announced in May 2012, which  goes to show the impact that pre-rendered trailers continue to play in the  ever-lengthening marketing cycle for a game in the build up towards finally being released.  With the game finally set to be released in April, 2020, just shy of Eight years from its first announce, the trailer was a fantastic achievement in story-telling that successfully served to build the brand and whet the appetite of gamers world-wide – You couldn’t possibly be left unimpressed. But, even if you were, CD Projekt waited for the closing moments to pull out their biggest guns – the introduction of Keanu reeves as ‘Johnny Silverhand’ in the closing moments of the trailer itself.

The inclusion of a Hollywood A lister was perhaps a nod towards some of the glitz and glamour that this year’s show might have been missing when compared to previous years as it continues its shift towards becoming a more consumer focused event. With much of the gameplay demos being only available to play behind closed doors, the floor space as ever continued to be taken by the huge booths and snaking queues of gamers eagerly waiting to play the latest demos. However, there were not as many as in previous years with the West Hall in particular seeming particularly sparse. Nonetheless, the show as ever remained heavily reliant on trailers to help market the games set for release.   Many of this year’s biggest trailers took a pre-rendered route with games like Deathloop, Gears of War 5, The Elder Scrolls online, Sniper Ghost Warrior, Baldur’s Gate III and many more opting to for the very highest levels in visual fidelity and storytelling to seduce gamers.  RealtimeUK’s own contribution this year included trailers for ‘Evil Genius 2’ and ‘Zombie Army 4: Dead War’ – further proof of the continuing role of CG in the marketing of video Games. We were delighted to see some marketing imagery we had created for Bigben’s ‘Overpass’ game which made an appearance on their stand.

Whilst the halls themselves might have been much more sparse both in terms of attendees and exhibitors, E3 as an online event continues to flourish. The millions that streamed in to view the spectacular press conferences continue to be a testament to the success of the show, even if the show itself is becoming more fragmented year after year.  Hopefully next year the likes of Sony, Microsoft and others will return to the main halls – Only once the elephants return to the room can the circus that is E3 feel complete.