E3 launches new side event to stay relevant and avoid dying

It’s hard to compete with PAX. While E3 is still considered as the most important gaming event of the year, video game publishers are slowly but surely spending less time and money for the Los Angeles event. The Entertainment Software Association wants to reverse this trend with a new side event called E3 Live.

E3 Live will take place during E3 on June 14-16 and will be open to the general public. It won’t be in the same building as the main E3 event. It’s going to be next door at the LA Live event center, and the ESA expects 20,000 people. Tickets are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis.

For those who aren’t familiar with E3, the event has featured most of the major video game announcements of the past twenty years. And yet, it’s a professional event restricted to journalists and people working in the video game industry. Around 50,000 people attended E3 in recent years.

It’s a tiny, tiny event compared to PAX events (four annual events with up to 70,000 people for the biggest one) and the Gamescom (345,000 people last year). Game publishers don’t understand why they should invest millions, wait until June and fight with everyone else to make their biggest announcements.

Nintendo hasn’t done a proper E3 conference in years. Instead, the company streams a pre-recorded video with trailers. In fact, this year, Nintendo will only showcase one game on its booth — the new Zelda game. Don’t expect any NX announcement.

This year as well, Activision Blizzard won’t have a booth at E3 for the first time ever — no Call of Duty, at least not on the nonexistent Activision Blizzard booth. Maybe Sony will take care of it.

What about Electronic Arts? Electronic Arts quit E3 as well. The company is hosting its own side event called EA Play. Of course, this side event is open to the general public.

And then, there’s YouTube, Twitch and the internet. I’m not convinced it still makes sense to hold major conferences for video games. Anybody can instantly watch trailers on YouTube. You can see gameplay live streams on Twitch. And you can easily try betas and demos now that internet connections are fast enough. E3 made sense when you had to buy video game magazines to read about upcoming games.

Can you see a trend? The ESA can see it too. E3 needs to reinvent itself if it wants to survive. And this is exactly what E3 Live is all about. 2016 could be a transition year for E3. It’s going to be interesting to see whether the ESA can reverse the trend in 2017 and convince video game companies to spend money on E3 or E3 Live.