Leaked ESA communications outline plans to morph E3 from a trade show to a 'festival'
September 17, 20193 min read
E3 has undergone major changes over the past few years. No longer the trade show that everyone must have a presence at, big-name publishers have pulled out of exhibiting at the Los Angeles Convention Center in favor of holding their own off-site events. The ESA, the group that organizes E3, responded by opening the convention to the general public. It has resulted in an E3 that's more crowded despite fewer must-see video games.
It's not a sustainable model and the ESA knows this. In leaked internal communications obtained by gamedaily.biz, the ESA outlines plans to drastically overhaul E3 in 2020 by creating a consumer experience that's described as a "festival." Judging by the pitch deck, it sounds like an amalgamation of Disney World and TwitchCon.
The plans lean heavily on attractions and experiences, as the ESA has seemingly determined it can no longer rely on the individual exhibitors to provide compelling reason to attend E3. For example, a mockup map of the LACC west hall shows eight "experience hubs" that surround nearly every booth. Theoretically, these stages will serve two purposes: They'd draw attendees to every corner of the convention for shows people are interested in, and they'd entertain people waiting in nearby lines.
A big part of reworking E3 hinges on it becoming an event that can't be missed. To this end, the ESA plans to invite celebrities and influencers -- although it seems as if organizers have nixed the proposal to pay anyone to appear. A given example is the Los Angeles Lakers playing a basketball video game during a stage show at one of the experience hubs. Presumably, these sorts of live appearances would take place constantly all throughout E3's two main showfloors.
This sort of pervasive entertainment should make line-waiting more bearable, but the ESA hopes to cut down on time wasted getting into a public demo. Similar to Disney's FastPass system, an app would allow users to book a time window for an appointment, meaning that they're free to leave and not wait in line for long stretches. However, for the time they are standing in line, "queuetainment" is suggested in the pitch deck which "enable[s] marketing to attendees in-line."
The other notable proposal in the plans for a revamped E3 concerns paid media partnerships. Specifically listed is the CNBC show called Tech Impact which the ESA sponsors (although, as gamedaily.biz points out, this sponsorship isn't properly disclosed). The idea almost certainly revolves around paid segments on these types of wide-reaching shows. It's unlikely that the ESA would try extending media partnerships to enthusiast sites like the one you're reading right now.
In pursuit of a bigger and better E3, the ESA will further open the floodgates with regard to attendance. An additional 10,000 public passes will be sold. However, the public will only be able to attend during Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday is reserved for industry only, similar to the way gamescom blocks off its first day for business and media.
The entirety of the ESA's pitch deck can be viewed below. It's a lot to process, as most of the details fundamentally shift the whole dynamic of E3. Something has to change, though. E3 has been slipping into irrelevance and the attendee experience has gotten worse with each passing year. E3 will die if it doesn't change and everyone -- its organizer included -- seems to know it.