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I had almost forgotten that E3 2017 was open to the public this year. But then I walked into the South Hall and was forcibly reminded that E3 is going to be much more crowded from now on.
As predicted, E3 2017 was every bit as crowded and difficult to navigate as you would expect on the first day of E3's grand experiment. The showfloor was packed, particularly in the South Hall, where most of the major console holders resided. There were long lines for both food and playtime.
Some publishers seemed to prepare better than others. Bethesda had organized queues ready to go, as well as an official store with merch (one of many small changes around the showfloor). Bandai Namco had rows and rows of kiosks up front, and a cordoned off press area in the back. The Crash Bandicoot remaster was put right out in the entrance where the public would easily notice it.
Other companies tried to approach E3 more or less as they had in the past. Xbox's booth felt particularly claustrophobic, with its open rows of kiosks being flooded by fans looking for playtime. By the early afternoon there were event staff members holding signs informing fans that the queues were closed.
Most of the fans were of the sort you see at PAX and other conventions: kids with their parents, students in gaming t-shirts toting massive bags of swag. There were fewer cosplayers around, but I did spot 2B from Nier Automata and the main character from Persona 3. Seemingly everyone was recording themselves—a reflection of the social media-driven culture that we now live in.
It ended up feeling about as busy as I had expected, but not as insane as I had feared. The West Hall in particular was much less packed, which alleviated the pressure somewhat. Eurogamer's Tom Phillips likened it to Gamescom, another event that has the press jostling with the public as they try to get from one end of the convention center to another. It was busier than before, but the larger crowds also made it feel more energetic.
As the biggest gaming show of the year, E3 is naturally going to draw large crowds of fans, streamers, and wannabe Youtube stars. Probably the best way to deal with the crowds is to institute a business day on Tuesday, then let the crowds in on Thursday and Friday, much like Tokyo Game Show. Short of that, the show's organizers might want to take another look at the layout in the South Hall in particular, as the narrow alleys resulted in fairly substantial traffic jams.
As for its appeal as a fan draw, E3 is certainly hard to top. With so many new and exciting games being announced, it's easily the most exciting time to be at a game show. Other events like PAX and Gamescom have exhibitors; but as they take place much later in the summer, both struggle to feel as fresh and exciting as E3. There are few moments on the gaming calendar as exciting as E3.
So while I might grouse just a little about the fans taking over the showfloor and the booths, I can't really blame them for wanting to be here. E3 has always been about the glitz and the hype and the marketing. GameStop employees and Youtubers have been sneaking in under false pretenses since time immemorial.
E3 has reached its final form. And to be honest, it could be a lot worse.
Edit: The byline on this story was originally attributed to Caty McCarthy, but it was actually written by Kat Bailey. This has since been amended.
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