The start of June is a time to keep marked for the biggest, best show in the video game industry; E3. The Electronic Entertainment Expo (thus, the 3 E’s of E3) is when multi-billion dollar companies gather together to show off technology and the innovation they have come up with as well as the breakthroughs they have yet to polish and release. Why, then, are there so many ducking out of it?
Every year, large companies that move the industry’s hardware (Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo) are given lots of stage time to let their viewers, fans, and the general public know what they have been working on as well as where their efforts will be focused for the next few years to come. These presentations are highlighted by the people who develop games (known simply as ‘Developers’) being able to display what games they are working on. Altogether, the event delivers a beautiful blend of what the big companies are doing, as well as what the small but powerful forces are working towards; E3 is creative synergy at its finest.
Personally, I see E3 much like an NBA or NFL draft; it tells me how my teams (studios) are doing, how different developers are doing personally, and who should be holding my attention for the next little while. For me, an outstanding trailer can be just as exciting as hearing a great developer is working with a different company. or that a great company is putting their spin on a different IP (Spiderman at this year’s E3, anyone?).
E3 Is A Place For Professionals, Right?
There are many developers who choose quite blatantly to not attend the week of E3, either to show their new game or even as an audience member; they simply don’t go.
In a recent interview (which you can find here) Chad Jenkins spoke about his lack of interest in E3. Jenkins has not only worked on Kerbal Space Program, a critically-acclaimed indie title, but he has founded his own studio with a project (Phantom Brigade) that is currently in Alpha. Why would someone with knowledge of the industry as well as looking to put their own work into the field not attend? As Jenkins explained, he sees the innovation coming from the bottom up, with indie titles leading the way and AAA following.
If the team is an indie studio (like Jenkins’) of a few people, the risk is minimal, even if they are risking 50% of their finances on releasing a game with a new feature or mechanic. However, when a large company puts the same scaled effort in, failure could cost people their careers.
Of course, indie developers focusing on their own innovation is not the only thing that reduces attendance. Below, watch the gameplay for an exciting new game, Project Wright from a studio called The Outsiders.
The video above is narrated by David Goldfarb, who, differing from Jenkin’s, has been involved with many blockbuster games, including Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Payday 2. This trailer was released November 2016, meaning that E3 2017 would have been a welcome time to hear any updates on the game, but that simply was not what the studio wanted.
David announced, via his Twitter, that he would not be attending E3, even though he and many industry veterans he knows personally have games in the works.
Why are people who make games not attending? Can one figure out why the people the show is trying to give exposure to, are not attending? In short, the show is not for them.
To paraphrase Jenkins’, “Innovation is not at the top, it starts at the bottom.” David’s stance is similar, in leaving a good standing in a large company (He directed PayDay 2, which is set for a sequel) so, what is success if not working with a large company that can produce the large-audience games you are creating?
Success in video games could, of course, be having your game played by millions of people for years to come. But, in leaving that success, these developers who are not joining E3 are creating their own paths. Whether that is by choosing to walk their own way or choosing to simply take other experts they have met and do their own work; video games are an art that artists must innovate to continue the industry and themselves.
Were there other companies, games, or people that you felt like skipped the show, even when they could have been a good fit? Let us know in the comments.