E3 is almost here again, the time when the industry makes its annual trek to the Los Angeles Convention Center. It's an event full of spectacle, pomp, and circumstance. Where the biggest publishers and developers try to make a splash that will carry them through the rest of the year. A time when fans are watching developer actions with intense interest, trying to divine what's coming soon. Mounting speculation and anticipation for a flurry of announcements within a few scant days. It is our version of the Super Bowl.
At least, that's what E3 was.
The most interesting change in the show is the rise in pre-show announcements. The new Need for Speed reboot was announced three weeks ago. Last week, 2K Games revealed XCOM 2, Bethesda released a trailer for Fallout 4, and Sony announced the Uncharted Collection for PlayStation 4. Metal Gear Solid V previews went live earlier this week. Dark Souls 3 is all but officially confirmed via extensive leaks.
Trailers for Ninja Theory's Hellblade and the new Ratchet and Clank are available now. Yesterday, Capcom released a whole host of Street Fighter V screenshots and Oculus VR put on their conference for the Rift headset and Oculus Touch. There's more unannounced titles waiting of course, but E3 is no longer the only time to reveal the newest games. Trailers, screenshots, and other information are heading out to the public all the time now.
Some are probably disappointed by this phenomenon. Instead of five days of sustained new information, the news is now spread out, like E3 is expanding to fit an entire month. It can leave you feeling like there's going to be less of the major conference flurries, where Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft drop amazing title after amazing title to convince you that their platform is the place to be. I admit, this pre-E3 announcements feel like they detract for the mystique.
On the flip side, for some developers, these announcements are a chance to gain some early mindshare. Instead of hoping that their game will float above the barrage of E3 previews and news, creators have a chance to be proactive. You'll probably be hearing more about XCOM 2, Fallout 4, or Street Fighter V next week, but now you're primed and ready for more information on those games.
You might think this would be a problem for those of us who cover these big events, but I'm cool with it. For me, this means I get to spend more time telling you how a game played or how I feel about what a developer's cooking up. Is the gameplay looking good so far? Is it trying something new? What's intriguing about the game beyond a video you can watch on YouTube? I think that's more valuable than transcribing what's happening in a CG trailer or simply listing off the basic features. (Though we still have to do some of that.)
Things have changed. Once E3 was it. Now, we have Gamescom, four PAX shows, EGX, the VGAs, and various Comic-Cons. Those shows allow publishers and developers to reach out directly to fans and show off their latest playable wares. Even beyond that, the internet lets studios show fans new titles via YouTube or Twitch. Nintendo has proven that the Nintendo Direct format is perfectly worthwhile compared to putting on a huge stage show in Los Angeles. Many developers run weekly Twitch sessions, showing players their in-progress titles each week. What was once a cycle that built towards E3 is now a consistent march of marketing, reveals, and hype.
Not that we don't need E3 anymore, as it still serves a purpose from a marketing standpoint. Tradition dictates that companies bring their best and brightest, so there's always something to see. Games that rise to the top of E3, like last year's No Man's Sky, stay on the minds of the gamers for a long while. The spectacle and pageantry will still be there - which does raise the question of if they should've been there in the first place - so all is not lost if that's your thing. The change just means that E3 itself gets some room to breathe. Bethesda can give us a little bit more information or gameplay for Fallout 4 before dropping a bomb with a new Doom or whatever, instead of trying to deliver both of those reveals back-to-back. The pacing shifts a bit, not the overall content.
What's clear is these are changes that are here to stay. Publishers and developers have more options to show us why their games should matter to us. That's a great thing. Each title gets a chance to expand at its own pace. We're in the second year of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the Wii U begins its final dance, and the PC is finally getting a stage show. It's a great time for games and E3 will still be an amazing show.
You just know about some of the stuff ahead of time.