E3 is a spectacle. It’s a show that opens up with more than a day of fanfare and insanity put on display by the gaming industry’s heaviest hitters. We see each company parade out stars, rappers, musicians, pyrotechnics, sexy dancers and a slew of sizzle reels meant to titillate and excite.
The problem? That doesn’t work anymore.
A desperate cry for attention.
Six years ago, when gaming was exploding into the mainstream at a stunning rate, the inclusion of well known celebs made sense for press conferences. Now, they seem like desperate pleas for attention. The writers in the room don’t care for them, and the fans watching at home would much rather be looking at new games and hardware than famous people they can find anywhere else.
I recognize that these conferences are now shown on cable television channels, and that might explain why companies consider it justifiable to bring a chorus of dancing girls on stage to present their wares. To that point I offer a counter: the people taking time to sit down and watch a gaming press conference are doing it for the games. When your average gamer sits down and turns on Spike TV to watch Microsoft’s E3 presentation, that person doesn’t think “yes!” as Usher takes the stage.
Which brings me to the overarching reason for why press conferences, at least in their current form, are completely irrelevant. Gamers have the internet, and the internet has become a really good source for gaming information and media. When companies rub our noses in entertainment we don’t want to watch, we walk away (unless we’re trapped in seats in front of the stage). We can catch all of the gameplay videos and trailers online in a matter of hours. Why sit through Flo Rida and an hour of terribly scripted banter when we can just wait a bit and get to the goods on our own?
I’m not suggesting that these press conferences should go away completely, but I do think their current format is a waste of time and money.
We can do this better.
Why not swap out all of the crazy fanfare and absurd expense for a more traditional display of information? Look at WWDC, for instance. This is where Apple presents their changes and upgrades for the coming year. They have a simple stage and a nice, large screen for folks in the audience and, when they chose to stream it, viewers at home.
Executives and designers take the stage one at a time in order to show what’s coming up. The hype is generated by the products they’re presenting, not the rapper and fleet of dancers pouring onto the stage from all sides.
Not to downplay the incredibly hard work the event coordinators put into each of these pressers, but they’ve become exceptionally nauseating. The company that kept spectacle to a minimum this year was Sony; guess what, they had a great show.
I’ll also admit that while Nintendo also kept spectacle to a minimum, their show was still a tad lacking. This might be better served in an entirely separate editorial, but I blame that on Nintendo’s conceptual lineup, not the absence of paid dancers.
Sex shouldn’t sell.
As for booth babes, well, they don’t do anything to add to the conversation of gaming as a growing medium. I get that marketing companies think sex sells and apply it generously to any opportunity to move product, but the gaming industry can live just fine without uninterested models standing around the show floor of a massive convention.
They also don’t do much for what’s likely one of the fastest growing demographics in gaming; females. The creation of booth babe galleries on well-known websites tells female gamers and readers that they’re job is to be gawked at rather than gamed with. The presence of these women at shows tells professional female journalists and industry folk that we’d rather see them half naked than working.
In an industry that has several companies in financial trouble, there’s also the argument that sparing expenses for models at these shows is downright stupid. The good gaming journalists don’t acknowledge their presence, and the demographic they stand to please isn’t even attending the show. Booth babes simply serve as a drain on company funds; funds that would be better spent on, say, hiring great developers and public relations folk.
What about the excitement?
When everything is said and done, no one remembers the booth babes on the show floor or the paid dancers on the stages.
They remember the hardware, the software and the best parts of each presentation. E3 can still be exciting without all of this emphasis placed on showmanship. This industry isn’t Hollywood, and we don’t need absurdities steeped in sex and fame to share the beauty of our products.
Games and gaming systems speak for themselves. Gamers were talking a lot more last week about The Last of Us and the Wii U (good or bad) than they were Flo Rida and Usher.