The ESA Leak Puts the Future of E3 In Question

The ESA Leak Puts the Future of E3 In Question

Things are about to get pretty rough for the industry's number-one trade show.

Welcome back from a weekend that was absolute garbage. Outside of two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio that left at least 29 people dead, over 2000 journalists and analysts who attended E3 2019 had their information leaked by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Rest assured a whole lot of journalists are going to spend this week trying to get used to their new phone numbers.

The ESA is calling its epic whoopsy-doopsy a "website vulnerability." Some impacted journos say they've already received harassing calls and texts thanks to the screw up.

I feel for the affected parties who not only had to deal with this gongshow, but also had to explain the danger of this leak to baffled friends and family outside the industry. Writing about games isn't exactly as dangerous an occupation as working on an Arctic crab boat, but threats and instances of actual harm are far more common than Mom and Dad might expect. Game reviewers receive death threats and DDOS attacks for going against popular opinion, and in 2017, an innocent person died in a swatting incident following an argument about Call of Duty. Those are just a couple of examples. Obviously, Not All Gamers™ behave badly, but game journalists' worries about their information falling into the hands of people who legitimately hate them are valid.

The ESA hasn't commented on the issue beyond its initial explanation and a promise that "it will not occur again," but that's not nearly enough for many of the affected, several of whom are likely organizing class-action lawsuits. It looks like the ESA is going to have some big legal woes in the near future, but its problems might extend further than that: After this fiasco, how eager will people be to sign up for E3 2020? What does this breach mean for the trade show in general?

At first glance it's tempting to think E3 will escape with a few bumps and bruises, but deeper study indicates the show might be in a lot of trouble. On one hand, E3's attendance numbers are holding steady: 2019 suffered a dip over 2018, but nothing catastrophic.

On the other hand, E3's long-term future looked a little cloudy even before the leakage. Sony skipped out on an E3 presence this year, and even if it merely took a one-year break to build up its war chest, that doesn't change Nintendo and Microsoft's diminished presence at the show. Microsoft will continue to operate exclusively out of the Microsoft Theater, and while Nintendo will probably continue to host a booth on the show floor, it's not going to return to traditional E3 press conferences. E3 won't die tomorrow, but it's becoming increasingly fragmented and this security breach will cause more attendees to break up and drift away.

One thing undoubtedly keeping the ESA up all night is the realization that spurning E3 2020 isn't too difficult. It's not as if E3 is the only game expo in town anymore. Indie developers show their wares at PAX. The Game Awards are packed with major reveals and announcements. Specialized fan gatherings get their share of news too, like yesterday's new Guilty Gear reveal at EVO. Capcom announced the long (long) awaited Mega Man 11 via an anniversary livestream. E3's days as the hub for game news and reveals are shrinking to a dot in developers' rear view mirrors.

In other words, E3 no longer offers much that developers, journalists, and influencers can't find at other conventions, fan gatherings, and livestreams. Even E3's status as a trade show versus a fan convention might not protect it, as analysts, PR people, and other industry personnel had their information leaked alongside journalists and YouTubers. The data leakage is more than enough to make E3 attendees wonder, "Why am I bothering with E3? What does it offer me that other shows, conventions, and livestreams don't?" The ESA might not like the answer that bubbles to the surface.

Then there's the issue of potential legal fees. If the ESA is sued as a result of this breach, its financials might wind up looking like a deflated balloon by the time E3 2020 rolls around.

From whatever angle you look at E3's future, the news isn't great. We're still a long way away from the 2020 show and people tend to move on quickly from crises, but forgiveness won't be easily won. Worse for the ESA, the damage to E3's reputation is just one gap that needs to be bridged. The danger of bankruptcy is an even deeper, wider gap that might prove to swallow E3 whole.

It's going to be a long, cold winter for the ESA.

Major Game Releases This Week: August 5 to August 9

Here are the major releases for the week of August 5 to August 9. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019. Don't forget to put on sunscreen when you go out. That sun is brutal.

  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall [August 6, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC]: The fifth entry in the Age of Wonders series takes on a sci-fi flavor with Planetfall. There's a story about Cataclysm, ruination, and factions at war with each other, but it's all just a front to get up to your elbows in turn-based strategy goodness.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos XD [August 6, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC]: This remake of FromSoftware's hyper-patriotic third-person mecha game comes at an interesting time in the United States' history. All of the events contained within Metal Wolf Chaos easily passed for parody in 2004, but if you ran up to me tomorrow and said a mecha battle is ongoing in Washington D.C., I wouldn't bat an eye.
  • Guacamelee! One-Two Punch Collection [August 6, Switch] Heads up, amigos! The One-Two Punch Collection body-slams you with the first two Guacamelee! games in a single collection. I never got to play the second game, but I did enjoy the first one a great deal. Sometimes you just have to experience life as a chicken to get a proper perspective on the world around you.

News and Notes

  • Well bust my buttons. A new Guilty Gear game is coming! Been a while, huh?
  • If you haven't done so already, make sure to take a good, long look at Kat's preview for The Outer Worlds. We're probably not getting an RPG that sprawls like a Fallout title (we're talking about a much smaller team working on the game), but we are getting a game that lets us be evil in awful, creative ways.
  • Did you play the "Yoshi's Choice" level in Super Mario Maker 2 yet? It sure is something.
  • A Pokemon Sword and Shield Direct is coming on Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET. This is going to be a peaceful, drama-free event, I'm sure.
  • Hey Pokemon Go players, how's your crusade against Team Rocket Go-ing? Over the weekend I fought against a sad man who tried to assure me "Normal doesn't mean weak" before he lobbed a bunch of Rattata at me. Sheesh, at least come at me with a Snorlax.
  • I found my maiden name in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which sure did give me pause. Needless to say, I don't see it in games that often. Up until now I only spotted it once on an Inazuma Eleven NPC.
  • This Week on Axe of the Blood God: Kat and I continue the RPG Console Quest with the Game Boy! Not that the Game Boy had any noteworthy RPGs, of course. I can't think of a single one. Listen here!

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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