Skip to main content

The spirit of E3 could be felt in LA – now let's bring it back | Opinion

If the industry truly wants something to emerge from the ashes of E3, it needs to work together

The last week in LA was pretty good.

I enjoyed it, at least. This past week, whatever you call it – Summer Games Fest or Not-E3 or E3 lite or the ghost of E3 (oh I like that, something that's still here but also not really) – had some strong announcements, some games you could actually play, and a bunch of nicely put together showcases.

Ultimately, we're all beholden to the line-up. Geoff Keighley's Summer Games Fest showcase was well done this year, with good pacing, a strong opening message, decent variety, and diversity. But even Geoff can't make games appear out of nowhere. It was well done, but it's not going to go down in history as an all-timer.

PlayStation is clearly going through a lull with its line-up. Over the last two weeks, it's announced and showcased its 2024 first-party slate, which primarily consists of Astro Bot, Concord and LEGO Horizon Adventures. Now these games hold a lot of promise and look lovely, but they're hardly God of War or Spider-Man. Nevertheless, PlayStation was in LA this week, with a physical presence. The media could meet developers and play Sony's line-up during this period for the first time since 2018. That for me feels significant.

Xbox had undoubtedly the biggest show by far, with a string of major reveals. You can certainly see what $80 billion buys you, with blockbuster brands, impressive new IP and returning fan favourites during a relentless 90 minute broadcast. It was an exciting show. It perhaps lacked a little variety, I felt it was crying out for a family game, but then Microsoft knows its crowd. It was a shame it was a pre-recorded video and not a live show, because I felt the audience would have reacted very strongly. But perhaps one for next year.

To all those events organisers, it's worth remembering this week doesn't belong to you. E3's death was, in part, a failure of consensus. The industry couldn't agree with what it wanted

Ubisoft had an event, too. This was another company that focused its immediate line-up, which includes two of this year's biggest games in Star Wars Outlaws and Assassin's Creed Shadows. The firm is clearly missing E3, with a venue featuring stormtroopers and props (including blue milk) on the lower floor, and an upper floor decked out like a Japanese house.

Finally, there was IGN Live. I popped by on the Sunday to do a panel (GI and IGN are now part of the same group of websites) and I thought it looked good. It was relatively small, and certainly far from the scale of an E3, but as a dedicated fan event with some interesting presentations, it did a good job, especially as something pulled together in just a few months. I am eager to see this one scale.

Overall, it wasn't the blockbuster-laden show of E3s past, but Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Dragon Age and Monster Hunter were all here being presented to press. And although some publishers clearly have smaller slates these days, there were a few with a wide variety of games to show, including Tencent, Amazon, Netflix and Netease, which just shows how quickly the industry has changed over the last five years.

All of this – Summer Games Fest, Play Days, Xbox Games Showcase, Ubisoft Forward, IGN Live, The Mix - wasn't E3. Not even close. But if you're like me and are hoping to see something emerge from the ashes of that legendary show, there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the future. All we need is a stronger slate, a few more business elements, and a bit more time to pull it together, and we might have something E3-ish in 2025.

We also need those trying to make this happen to pull together a bit. Some of these events do overlap a little, and so a bit or rivalry between the various shows is inevitable and, I'd argue, desirable. It's competition that keeps the costs in check and forces the various organisers to innovate and be ambitious. Competition is good.

With a stronger release slate, a variety of different event options and a little bit of co-ordination, and I'm convinced we'll have 'gaming Christmas' back again

But to those events organisers, it's worth remembering that this week doesn't belong to you. E3's death was, in part, a failure of consensus. The industry couldn't agree with what it wanted. Some wanted something digital, some wanted a media event, some wanted a consumer show, some wanted just business meetings… some wanted a combination of a few (or all) of those. What we have now in LA is the start of something that should cater to all those things. If you just want the media? Play Days is the place to be. Want to get consumers hands on? IGN Live is worth a look. Want to just make a splash with a big announcement? Well, you’ve plenty of options to choose from depending on your budget.

These various components need to work together. The big companies that are here presenting with their own shows, Xbox and Ubisoft, clearly know this. They have put on their own experiences, but Xbox also had a presence at Play Days and IGN Live, while Ubisoft had Star Wars on stage at Summer Games Fest and exhibited at IGN Live. They know that by supporting the wider ecosystem, that benefits the entire week, their partners and themselves.

A bit of collaboration and co-ordination is going to be helpful. Let's not put too much on at the same time, and let's not put these shows on too far away from each other. If I have one quibble about this week, it's that Xbox putting on its showcase 30 minutes away left me an exhausted, sweaty mess by the time I'd finished my appointments at 7:30pm on the Sunday. Perhaps, heaven forbid, Downtown LA isn't the best place to put all this on.

These events won't get on. They'll compete fiercely. But as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. A successful IGN Live benefits Play Days, just as a successful Play Days benefits IGN Live. I think back to Rob Matthews, the former Xbox exec who led the firm's E3 offerings, and what he said to us as part of our retrospective on E3 last week.

"[PlayStation and Xbox] were frenemies for that whole endeavour," he said. "We were doing something for the bigger cause of video games around the world […]. We would compete vigorously with each other all throughout the year, but we also realised that we were all in the same small industry and doing something special."

The ghost of E3 has been more substantial this year. Bigger isn't always better, of course, and I'm fairly sure that I'll enjoy this week less the noisier it becomes.

However, I also believe that a big, exciting, confident showing is just what the games industry needs right now. With a stronger release slate, a variety of different event options and a little bit of co-ordination, and I'm convinced we'll have 'gaming Christmas' back again.

In LA, I saw the foundations for what could be E3 2.0. I just hope the various people involved can get along enough to make it happen.

Read this next

Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
Related topics