With E3 2018 next month (12th – 14th June), I felt like writing an article that sheds some light on the history of E3, in addition to some of the marketing tactics that have been deployed throughout the years.
Events and expos are common amongst the many entertainment based industries. Films (including adult films), television, music, books, art. These events are primarily used as a platform to market and unveil new products, often in a grandiose way.
The videogame industry is no exception, and at the forefront of the events is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as the E3 Expo.
About the Electronic Entertainment Expo
Back in May 1995, the first ever E3 Expo event was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Since then, the Expo has ran annually at that same location (except for 1997 and 1998, when negotiations to secure the LA Convention Center failed), becoming a staple within the world of videogame announcements.
The format of the Expo has ran in a particular fashion since its inception. Namely, the prominent hardware and software publishers (Most notably: Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Activision, EA, Bethesda, Square Enix and Ubisoft) each present their new products and games to journalists, bloggers and influential industry members seated within the audience.
After the presentations conclude, the exhibition halls open and the attendees of the event can visit the various booths set up by both the main publishers, as well as the smaller ones who weren’t able to give a presentation.
It’s worth mentioning that whilst entry to E3 has almost exclusively been granted to journalists, the public is still able to watch the various presentations due to the expo being live-streamed. Additionally, for the 2017 event, 15,000 entry passes were sold to the public.
Great E3 Moments
Throughout the years, there has been many a great E3 moment. Moments that publishers try so hard to create, yet don’t always go to plan. When they do right though, the instantaneous and thunderous cheer of the audience is sure to be heard.
The first great E3 moment that comes to my mind, is Sony unveiling the PlayStation 4 price point during the 2013 event. To add a bit of context, Sony’s primary competitor, Microsoft, had presented their latest console, the Xbox One, prior to Sony’s presentation.
The revealed price of said Xbox One (which also had worse technical specifications that the PlayStation 4), was $499. Enter: Sony.
To add salt to Microsoft’s wounds, Sony then followed up their PlayStation 4 reveal with a video mocking the Xbox One’s always online (DRM) and used game system.
Overall, it was a knockout punch for Sony that set the tone for the PS4 vs Xbox One era.
Of course, that hasn’t been Sony’s only great E3 moment. During the 2010 expo, Kevin Butler (a character created by Sony, played by actor Jerry Lambert) seized control of the stage in a humorous and tasteful manner, immersing the audience within the world of PlayStation.
It’s not fair for me to shine the spotlight on Sony exclusively, so let me share a piece of videogame marketing that was so simple, yet so fantastic, that we included it in our article: Great examples of modern videogame marketing.
During the Bethesda conference of E3 2015, Director and Executive Producer Todd Howard was in the process of unveiling Fallout 4 for the first time. That, in and of itself, was a huge announcement that had the audience thrilled. But then Todd put the cherry on the cake.
At the end of the Fallout 4 presentation (June 15th), it was announced that the game would release on November 10th that same year, meaning fans would only have to wait 5 months to get their hands on it.
This act of announcing a game so close to its release window is not common at all within the videogame industry. Fans typically have to wait well over a year before a game releases, sometimes and in the case of a videogame called Cyberpunk 2077, the wait can exceed 8 years!
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game being developed by the well-reputed creator of the Witcher 3, CD Project Red, and was announced for the first time in 2012. It’s still in development as I write this, and looks to remain in development for at least another year or two.
There’s more to be said about Cyberpunk 2077 and its importance in the world of both videogames and marketing, but I’ll leave that for another article.
The final great piece of videogame marketing I want to leave you with, comes from none other than Devolver Digital, a smaller publisher that decided to take E3 2017 by storm with it’s downright hilarious parody presentation that mocks what is typically seen on the stage at the Expo.
Each game shown in this presentation is real, so it’s not exclusively a parody, but that fact just adds to how outside of the box this super piece of marketing was. For what was considered a pretty bad year for E3, with mediocre presentations from all of the main publishers, Devolver Digital’s presentation arguably stole the show.
Numerous memes have been created from their E3 presentation since then, and it frequently pops up throughout platforms like Reddit. There is no doubt in my mind that this parody will be referenced long into the future.
Not So Great E3 Moments (but still great for other reasons)
I mentioned earlier that things don’t always go to plan. To be quite honest, cringey, awkward, confusing and straight up boring stuff occurs often. It wouldn’t be an E3 presentation without the bad moments too!
Many of these happen to be quite self-explanatory, so I’ll try not to bore you with too many words and let the videos do the talking.
The following example of an E3 presentation going wrong comes straight out of the 2017 expo, with famous YouTuber Jesse Wellens opening a presentation for Need for Speed: Payback.
Jesse Wellens actually followed this cringey endeavour up with a video on his YouTube channel, explaining how the whole thing occurred.
Next up, we have an E3 presentation that is famous amongst the gaming community, known none other than: Mr Caffeine. Watch the video, and you’ll see why.
I sometimes wonder if caffeine was the only thing he had in his system that day… Moving on, I present to you, the masterful Wii Music demonstration!
Yeah… After that true headbanger (in the worst possible way), there is only one thing you could possibly need. What is that, you ask? To see the bottom of an Xbox Live Avatar’s shoe, of course.
Well Bam, there it is. The next bad moment from E3 comes courtesy of Jason Derulo. The worst part of this clip, excluding his singing, is the fact he tries to get Aisha Tyler to join him on stage. She refuses.
Jason Derulo is one of many celebrities that have been brought on stage at E3 to try and increase the hype behind a particular videogame. Another example of this, and the last example of this article, is Pele being interviewed during E3 2015 whilst EA were announcing Fifa 15.
I don’t actually advise you to watch the whole video, because nothing cringey really happens at all. However, in the fast-paced setting of an E3 presentation, a 7 minute slow and monotonous interview with Pele, regardless of his fame, did not go down well.
Do you have any of your own examples to share? If so, leave us a comment down below and get the conversation started!