E3 is alive! Sort of…

Last Updated July 11th, 2022

Well, this year we saw E3 hang up the hat, so to speak. With complications from COVID, generally lowered interest, and prices for convention space getting unsustainable, E3 said that this year is off. Frankly, most of us suspected every other year would be off too, the final E3 death knell so to speak. And to be fair, we were wrong. E3 is still a very powerful brand so of course, someone would want to snatch it up, and that someone is ReedPop.

Haven’t heard of ReedPop. We wouldn’t expect you to because they are one of those interesting companies that everyone knows yet no one knows. Let me ask you this, have you heard of PAX? What about the New York Comic Con? ReedPop runs both. They are a fairly big name in event planning, hosting, and organization.

So E3 is coming back, right?

Yes, but as is the case with any major change in ownership, it’s going to be different. To see how first we have to look at some E3 history.

E3 was originally formed in 1995 as a trade show for the video game industry. Before then, video game developers would simply present their new projects at electronics trade shows, like the Consumer Electronics Show. However, they were drowned out by the multitudes of other tech shown at the show, from computers to dishwashers. It was clear that there needed to be a space just to show off new advancements in gaming. So when the International Digital Software Association, the governing board that you now know as the ESA, was formed in 1994, major companies in the gaming industry at the time asked them to host their own Expo to fill that space, and E3 was born.

While its first decade was somewhat rough, requiring a move in the venue and several changes in policies, E3 was considered the go-to convention for gaming enthusiasts. And it was an exclusive club! Attendance was capped at 40,000-70,000 people depending on the year, and you got preferential treatment if you worked in the media or the gaming industry in any capacity. In 2007, E3 went professionals only, and while it was harshly criticized for its scaled-back 2007 and 2008 events, in 2009 it found itself hitting max capacity with only media and industry representatives.

And for the next few years, E3 was at its most exclusive, being a show for industry only… and everyone wants into the exclusive club. The public found themselves entering contests or even traveling to the convention center on the off whim that they would get sold a pass at the door.

However, the industry didn’t quite feel the same way. In a world where online media was becoming more and more of the norm, it was simply more cost-effective to directly market to consumers, much like Nintendo’s “Nintendo Directs.” Demos could easily be distributed to consumers and media via the internet. Companies began to pull out of E3 due to rising costs.

So to compensate, E3 was opened up to the public again, and while the number of industry attendees fell, public passes were in high demand. This was a trend that E3 would follow for several years until a series of catastrophes hit E3 simultaneously.

The first was a massive data leak in 2019. The personal information of attendees over the last several years was compromised. Being that this included contact info for game journalists, many (including myself) found themselves the target of harassment.

Immediately following the leak, the COVID pandemic hit. So E3 found itself smack dab in the middle of a crisis where industry professionals no longer thought it was safe to attend, and attending any event in public was basically a health hazard. What followed was a series of event cancellations which brought us to the current day, when we all thought E3 was “dying.”

However, ReedPop’s E3 is going to look significantly different. First of all, it’s going to be completely open to the public, hearkening back to the original days of E3.

Second, it is going to be a combination of in-person and digital event. To what capacity, we do not know, but Reed has put on some interesting hybrid events before, so it will be interesting to see how they handle E3.

It’s worth noting that Reed doesn’t have full control. The ESA will still be participating and will still be steering E3 in the direction of being a worthwhile trade show that shows off all the new tech and ideas in video games.

However, it is very likely that we will see a shift toward Comic-Con levels of interaction. That means more merch booths, more panels where fans can ask questions of developers, more activities for the general public, and, conversely, fewer backroom business meetings and industry-exclusive events.

So in a sense, the “old E3” is dead. However, it is being replaced with a modern take on an even older E3, the E3 from the age of the Super Nintendo and GamePro magazine.

The big question is, does the market still exist? Because Reed events like the New York Comic Con push 200,000 attendees, whereas E3 has always lingered around 60,000. PAX has similar, but still higher numbers. So what attendance numbers will Reed be looking for, and what changes will they make to meet those numbers?

We will have to wait and see.