The AggroCast Is Out With A New Episode As the Team Dives Into The Cancelation of E3 And Why Conventions Like E3 Are Needed For The Consumer
The AggroCast crew has some words to say about the cancelation of E3 in 2023 in the latest episode of the podcast. Okay, it is more David has a lot of words to say about the E3 cancelation. Partially as the long-term journalist going to the convention for over a decade. Partially since Ray was a bit under the weather during the recording but was still a superstar to press on through.
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AggroCast Resurrected — E3’s Cancelation [Episode Six]
Raymond Bruels: Hi! Welcome to the AggroCast. This is Ray Bruels with David Hades Becker. Today we’re going to talk about E3. Or, more importantly, the cancellation of E3 in 2023. So, David, what the hell happened?
David Hades Becker: There’s a lot that’s happened, and there’s a lot that still hasn’t come about because they put out the official statement canceling it. There’s rumors going about. If you read some of the signs that are out there, you can kind of piece things together. but what it feels like is there was so much backlash for E3 for the longest time mixed in with the pandemic that other organizations and all that stuff kind of feel like they’re moving in to do their own thing and… Here I am I’m rambling there it feels like there’s a progression that most people didn’t see or saw coming and now some of those companies are finally taking advantage of it to do their own thing and by that I mean we have to go back a few years with some of the drama that’s happened with E3 in the past… because when I started going E3, every publisher, developer, hardware and creator would show up and they would have a place on the floor or they’d have a meeting room for everybody to get together and actually talk about games, look at games, play the games, all that kind of thing. And then slowly over time, because of the internet and technology, it became easier for them to stream stuff. So like EA, EA was one of them, Ubisoft did the same thing where they would host their own streams, but they would still be on the show floor until it was cheaper to just do the stream and not have these big booth spaces. And that’s kind of where it all started. Even though you still have like, you had Sony showing up, Nintendo showing up, Microsoft showing up, and they would do these huge booths, as well as these massive showcases, so that people see the games and everybody that wasn’t actually able to on the show floor could see the games. But if you’re on the show floor, you can actually play some of them. And it just feels like the shift right now is it’s just deeper into stream stuff, as well as allows them to dictate their narrative that want to sell it at all. I think that’s the bigger one I kind of want to dive in on.
RB: Yeah, I wondered with some of the changes, especially after COVID and the lockdowns and how everything was kind of put on hiatus, if some of this was because of that and companies recognizing that they didn’t need conventions to get their message out, to get their advertising out and so they’ve shifted to a more online platform.
DHB: Well in some instances it makes sense for it because I remember the last in-person E3 I went to they were still showing off Psychonauts 2 and I remember having a special press access and all they did was they took me into a special room that was done up in a theme, they gave me a little press swag bag and all they did was show me video that they could have just uploaded to YouTube so I could have watched. The only difference was I was in this room that they kind of built an experience around. I was still just watching gameplay that ended up getting uploaded to YouTube a day or two later. So I mean, I get like for companies like that. I mean, at the time, I can’t remember the name of the studio, Double Fine. They were a smaller studio, they hadn’t been bought by Microsoft yet. So it made it would have made sense for them to save their money and do that. Whereas like, there was one year I went to go like for Dead Space 3, EA had this massive booth. It was almost the same thing. I had this whole experience, you walked in like this ice cave thing, sat down and watched the fight with a giant drill from the game, but it was literally just video that they were showing that wasn’t actual live gameplay. But EA can afford to do that. So they can put on that extra spectacle and show off to, you know, press industry and all that stuff. The bigger the bigger issue, I guess the bigger swap comes in is if they can show up the video and then have people go and play that, it would make more sense to obviously have an in person thing. So they can make sure that people aren’t taking the handing it out to other people because if you know they send me a demo reel they run the risk of me taking that demo and accident you know quote accidentally leaking it online for it to make a buck or something like that so they have better access there.
RB: So, with the cancellation of E3 do you do you think E3 is ever coming back?
DHB: Sadly, I don’t think it is. Because they’re as it’s been proven because it was it was what the nails in the coffin for E3 it was Microsoft pulling out. Sony pulling out. Sega pulling out. Ubisoft pulling out. All so that they can do their own, um, live streams, which makes sense. I mean, they were doing that during the pandemic and they were getting, you know, decent viewership, not only just for that, but also effectively they could put out the sizzle reels that they wanted to put out there and they could put the information they wanted out there without having to filter it through, uh, any, any individuals like, you know, like ourselves, you know, press or journalists or bloggers or anything like that. It was just, it’s what they want to dump out there.
RB: But with those companies pulling out, E3 is probably just dead.
DHB: Yeah, but with those companies pulling out, that was the first sign going, well, now we’ve removed our big showcases. And then, you know, so it’s like, what were we going to E3 for if you didn’t have these massive companies? Because obviously, Sony doesn’t just show up with their first party. They show up with all of their third party games they’re gonna show off, as well as the hardware. Same thing with Microsoft. Ubisoft is gonna show up there and show up there however many games they’re showing off, and then would have space on the floor. But if they’re not there, now you have these empty booth spaces, you have no draw for it because even though they still try to highlight in the indie games, they don’t get as many into developers because it costs a lot to go to a convention in LA. It was a domino effect where people started just like, they saw, oh, these major ones pulled out, so these other companies are pulling out. And I guarantee that’s what happened is finally the ESA finally saw it’s like, oh, we’re now going to be bleeding money if we hold this and it’s gonna be developers that you would see at like kind of any of the smaller gaming conventions that’s happened throughout the world. Like the way it was kind of at the original Penny Arcade where you’d get the smaller developers because they can go to those smaller events and show off their stuff. And that was kind of what E3 was turning into. And if we’re gonna move into a little bit more of the speculation, it’s to be able for these companies to put their narrative through very specific companies. Because if you look at it, all of the companies I’ve named had planned, including Microsoft announced, they were going to be showing off, was it Starfield, was going to have the big debut of all the games that everybody wanted to watch the Sunday before E3 would have even happened. And that was still when it was happening. It couldn’t have any presence at the show.
DHB: So now Microsoft could be like, here’s what we want to show. Nobody gets to play it. All you get to do is speculate on this. Kind of like what Ubisoft did with the original Watch Dogs, where they showed off this amazing looking footage. Everybody assumed that’s what game was going to be like, everybody bought it, and then realized, oh, no, we got kind of got duped. And then you, so you take all of that and then you add in the fact that the only people who kind of benefited from this on top of that, as far as the game journalist side were the bigger companies, because now you have a Geoff Keighley, I think IGN is the site that’s hosting it, having the Summer Game Fest going on with kind of a collaboration between the two of them. And they get to show off everything and they get to sit down and play the games with the developers. But these are going to be in very, very tight quarters. But you’re not going to get, in my opinion, a truly unbiased opinion on these games. You’re going to be fed whatever the marketing teams want to give you, if that makes sense.
RB: Well, yeah, because any time you’ve got some kind of conference, you’re going to have talking points that are fed by marketing. So you won’t have that true gaming experience of being able to test it while at the con.
DHB: Oh, yeah, exactly. I’ve run into that with multiple other things. It’s why I was always a fan of making sure we had an in-person E3 every year. Because you could see those videos and they look amazing and I almost want to say it was I think it was the God of War 2018 which or no God of War 3 I mean it’s still one of my favorite games. I loved it. But from the video they showed in the presentation they showed at that E3 anybody watching it outside of the show would be like oh this is amazing but I remember sitting down and I’m like no there’s some issues with this game. They need to be fixed. Thankfully, they did fix that but at the time it made me worried to go I don’t want to I want to promote this game yet because it’s still in development. I’m getting fed the marketing. And if I was to buy into all the marketing, I would have just thrown my money down and not thought about it. And it wouldn’t have mattered if they fixed it or not. And that’s kind of the same thing that’s happened with Watch Dogs. They didn’t have anybody there to sit down, play the game or anything in the original setting. They just had it filtered through. Everybody saw these crazy videos. They assumed, there was people picking it apart, trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t real. But at that point, it was all theory crafting and not actual people having real knowledge. And then the game came out and it was good, but it wasn’t what people were promised. And I could see that moving forward when you can go and be like, okay, we have our IGN, we have our GameSpot, we have our Polygon, we have these very, very specific relationships where we can put our sponsored content on them already. But now you just have marketing people creating the video, capturing gameplay that only highlights the positives of the game and completely ignores any of the negatives.
RB: Yeah, they’re controlling the narrative as you said and they’re basically creating like movie trailers You only see the best parts that they want to show you.
DHB: Yeah, exactly! And I mean even though this is gonna kind of date it right the podcast a little bit It they kind of did the same thing with the current Star Wars, Star Wars Jedi game is they’ve shown off some amazing stuff for it. They’ve mentioned a few things I’m currently in the middle of doing the review for it. The game I’m playing isn’t what I saw in the marketing. It’s not it’s not bad. I prepped myself up for a specific game, and it’s not what I was, I felt like I was given. So, and that’s, and I see that just happening more and more, because to dovetail from that, through the cancellation of E3 happened, that’s when some of the stuff like the press asset communication I had started to kind of wind itself back. And it felt like there was a couple of extra embargos in general that make it feel like they want to push this content through these people that they can pay the sponsored content for. While, I don’t want to say lower level, but like the more junior or not as popular, I guess, outlets have to wait. And by then, because the way the algorithms and all that stuff work on Google, YouTube, everything, our content will be pushed down and thus they control the narrative even further.
RB: So the end of E3, by having those anchors pull out of the show, it hurts indie developers who would rely on the show to get their product out there in front of people. It hurts the smaller reviewers and outlets who perhaps don’t have those relationships or don’t do sponsored content.
DHB: Or even have the resources to show up every to every other convention because I mean there’s so many other conventions that go on. But usually E3 was the big one where you can go oh I live in the United States I can make this one convention instead of having to try to figure out how to go to nine different conventions to find these little indie developers as well as big AAA developer.
RB: Going forward, do you think that any of these anchor companies that already kind of either pulling out of E3 and setting up their own stuff before the show or pulled out like the the dominoes falling over, do you think that they’re going to ever go to other shows or are they just gonna kind of do their own thing now?
DHB: I would like to think they would go to other shows not do their own thing but they have no incentive. I mean, if they could save money where they could just have their marketing team which they’ve already paid for and hired. Whip up some trailers to upload to YouTube or to run Twitch streams that is free for them to do, as well as hand out to people they know they can drive the narrative for. They’re just saving money while making money at the same time. So there’s no real benefit for them to kind of go back to having an in-person E3. And that’s unfortunate because we’re talking at it as members of the media and the press and bloggers also. E3 two, three years before the pandemic happened, We’re starting to open it up to people who weren’t in the industry, who weren’t media, Who weren’t press. That you could actually have fans go out there, get the hands on with their actual games, and kind of form an opinion. And then, you know, as well as I do, word of mouth is a great marketing strategy as well. So if you have one guy who goes out, plays this game, goes back and tells four of his friends how amazing it was or how shitty it was, now it just kind of builds from there.
RB: Yeah, you’ve got that grassroots marketing.
DHB: And they’re going to lose that kind of thing unless they start mixing in smaller events, it’ll be, again, probably paid for and pulled by the companies. I’ve been to a few where Sony’s done that, Capcom’s done that, where they, they go on like these tours around the country where you can go out and see the game, play the game. And it’s kind of like going to little mini E3, but it still comes down to you’re going into a trailer to watch video, a video of a game or a very, very specific segment of a game to highlight it and not actually getting a true sense of what you’re getting into, or allowing anybody whose job it is to go get that sense for you and kind of, you know, craft, not, not craft, I don’t want to say craft a narrative. But kind of give you that unbiased, unfiltered response. You’re kind of destroying the narrative the marketing team is to kind of give the reality to people.
RB: We’ve seen so many issues with video games the last few years. Even recently, EA’s Last Survivor, Star Wars The Last Survivor (Star Wars Jedi: Survivor), there was a lot of conversation about the game was not built with new graphics cards in mind. So there were a lot of stuttering and graphics issues and the gameplay was was not great.
DHB: Yeah from a lot of people I’ve heard the game was almost unplayable on the PC. And, I mean, they’ve I know they’ve patched it since or they’re still and they’re still working on patches to fix that but that’s something that could have been told right out the gate if you know… if somebody actually got to sit down and be like, oh, what’s the specs of the system? I’m using here I guess we saw that it at CES where you’d sit down you look at the computer next to it say what the specs are so you compare that to what you’re seeing on the screen and that kind of would have thrown a red flag up if everybody’s looking over and like why is it running on this really low-end graphics card how is it going to work if i’ve got the the latest and greatest. And also to that extent games like Cyberpunk nobody was seeing any of the red flags because they were kind of driving the narrative for the year that was building up at E3 and all the other conventions. Until the E3 before it was supposed to launch and then all of a sudden like i remember being in that room with ever with a bunch of other press people behind closed doors. They gave us like jackets and statues and all sorts of stuff. Like it felt like they were buttering us up and like we had to walk it. We walked into one of the bars from the game and like, yeah, here’s the beers. Here’s the jacket. Here’s this. Okay, and then we go back and watch the game play. I’m like, this is not the game we saw in any of the trailer or the game. We’ve been promised and it felt like they’re in that and the news started to flow out there because there was a lot of independent writers, bloggers, and journalists out there and they were catching on to that. And that’s if they’re driving the narrative through these other mainstream outlets. As well as just doing, we’re just going to show videos that we want to show everybody.
RB: Well, and we’ve spoken on other podcasts about some of these outlets and how even when they do the reviews, the review scores that they give do not reflect the content of the review. Because they will score them higher than how they actually describe the gameplay.
DHB: Well, I’ve seen it the other way, too. Where I’ve seen reviews that have been out where you read it and it sounds like the the the writer really loved what they were playing. Then all of a sudden it’s like it’s got a three out of out of ten or a four out of ten and then you come to find out that the reason it has that is because they didn’t want to promote that game because they didn’t have the decent relationship with that developer or that publisher. They kind of wanted to get it buried down by giving it the lower score or to kind of like i know it’s it’s horrible like the review bombing thing where people go out there just give a shitty review because they don’t like one person’s politics or they don’t one person’s thing. And I’ve seen some of these some of these outlets do that as well.
RB: I hadn’t heard of that. That’s really interesting.
DHB: It’s rare but I’ve seen it happen a few times. Because there was years ago but I know I saw it on Kotaku and it was when they got blacklisted by another publisher I’m not going to name right now. But for whatever reason they were giving bad reviews because they were ‘A’ having to buy the game themselves putting their review out pretty much a week after the game came out because the publisher wanted nothing to do with them. Because Ironically, because they leaked some information they shouldn’t have leaked in the first place. Good talker. By knowledge, that’s all been rectified and all that stuff, and like I said, that was years ago about trying to put out, throw any cake in the current state of everything. But it’s an easy Google search. You can find out any of this information.
RB: Yeah. But it shows that that actually happens as well. So there’s a reverse to the relationships and the false ratings that are given.
DHB: Yeah, and it’s all a way to manipulate the market. It’s all a way to get more pre-orders, more day one buys, and all that kind of stuff. Again, to control the narrative, and that’s what feels like it’s gonna happen with the cancellation of E3 is, even though it sounds like, yes, I’m griping because I get to go out there and do all this stuff and now I’m losing that access, and it’s access I’ll probably never be able to get back instead of sitting there and doing the grind with some very specific developers and very specific publishers. It’s also a detriment for the consumer in general.
RB: They lose an outlet for information.
DHB: Yeah. Well, in this sense, they’re losing multiple outlets. There’s YouTube creators, Twitch creators, multiple sources go out there and have been covering it up until the pandemic. And then even when the pandemic hit, a lot of us were still able to still do that even though it was, you know, here’s a video, here’s some gameplay. And there was a couple of times where I got invited in to play some behind the scenes demos even though it was still remote, you know, but it was still going on. Pretty much every type of creator out there could do something, and now it’s very specific, very driven, and very controlled.
RB: Do you see any other conventions in that ecosphere that could take the place of E3 or could help fill that space and provide that information to consumers?
DHB: I mean, I don’t believe they’ve gone 100% back in person, but there’s Gamescom that happened in Copenhagen, I think it is. Which is obviously harder for a lot of smaller outlets to get to, but to my knowledge, they’re still doing their stuff because that’s one of the other biggest gaming, video gaming conventions that happen. But the other thing is like other things like San Diego Comic Con. For me, that was usually, if I couldn’t see the game at E3, I could show up to San Diego Comic Con and catch it there. Or obviously, I mean, they just canceled one of the PAXs. I mean, PAX is another one. They canceled South by Southwest. That used to be another one, but it feels like there’s there’s nothing out there right now. And I’m not hearing anything on that in the future. I’m almost certain that there’s not going to be The ESA is just gonna have to shut shut out all the E3 stuff down. It’s it’s there’s not gonna be any hope.
RB: Well, and even San Diego Comic Con last year trying to get access to games that were there is extremely difficult.
DHB: Oh, yeah, cuz I mean it and that’s the thing is I get a comic-con they have them out there, but it’s not just for the press, it’s also specifically for your average consumer to go. Oh, I’ve heard of this. Let me play this five-minute demo. I think the last year we were out there, they had this huge pac-man thing. And there was like an hour and a half line that anybody who wanted to play it had to wait through. And you know… And then there was the other area where we did a couple of things out there… That you kind of had to wait, it was like four hours? To get in because of the one of the other special events going on in there like where we saw the Samsung thing. The NFT game that we saw in there like how they kind of had it behind closed doors.
RB: Well, and there was one specifically that you tried to sign up for, but every time you tried to sign up for it, all of the slots were filled. I thought.
DHB: Oh, yeah, that was Sony when they’re doing the VR stuff. Is when we have to wake up at like four or five in the morning, hop on their website, hope it doesn’t crash so you could try to grab a slot. But like at Comic-Con, when you have quarter of a million people trying to do the exact same thing, you’re in a lottery, which I know that’s kind of the running joke at Comic-Con, that everything’s a lottery there. But that’s kind of how it is. And getting access is going to be, is going to be harder and harder because there’s more people who want to see it all. And then now there is no reason to give out access willy nilly when they can just control it.
RB: It’s, it’s, it’s interesting to, because I don’t know if everybody actually pays attention to the fact that smaller outlets were utilizing E3 to gain access to developers and to gameplay, to be able to help write reviews and get consumers information.
DHB: No, and there were smaller outlets that didn’t even realize they were doing it themselves. There was one outlet that I tried teaming up with one year at E3, and it was mainly because of how, you know, getting a hotel down there was rough, and we just ended up having to share a hotel room. And the entire time we were there, they did nothing but complain. They’re like, oh, E3 needs to end. E3 needs to be canceled because of, you know, because of how horrible of an experience it is. Not realizing the instant that happens, now they’re going to be sitting there watching videos and not getting access. And then after the pandemic hit, I still talk to some of them and they’ve been having issues getting a hold of some of the developers and publishers they’ve talked to before. Or getting access to certain events. Or getting access to early access games. Or sometimes even just press assets. And if they’re controlling like the screenshots you could share or if you could share a video that some other outlet has already shared and watermarked everywhere. That’s just kind of another telling thing. Like they don’t want these smaller outlets to do that kind of stuff. Because the smaller outlets have less to lose by being honest.
RB: Well, I’m sure that in their minds, at least from a marketing perspective, the perception is, well, these smaller outlets don’t have have a big enough following, so it’s not really like we’re losing anything.
DHB: Yeah, and I’ve run into that too, where it’s like, oh, you know, we’re losing you and you get, you know, maybe, you know, 10,000 views a month, you know. Yeah, but it doesn’t behoove them to go, yeah, we’re gonna, this is gonna be a drop in the bucket for us, you know, nothing major, but if we lost like our IGN or our GameSpot who are coming in bringing in millions of views, you know, that’s a bigger, that’s a bigger thing, obviously.
RB: Well, I, I am sorry that I did not have an opportunity to go to E3 and to experience…
DHB: Well, with any luck, I’m hoping, I’m still holding out hope that they’ll do something, at least some kind of in-person event. I don’t see it happening, but I’m still gonna hold out hope, because it just feels like we’re getting to that point we’re gonna have monopolies driving the news and hopefully the fans will realize that’s what’s happening and maybe kind of force the hand again.
RB: It’d be good to see. It would be good to see that access open back up. Let’s let’s hope.
DHB: I will keep all my fingers crossed.
RB: Well we are coming up towards the end of the podcast. Any last thoughts?
DHB: I believe I’ve got everything out there but I will I could talk for hours on this topic because it’s been something I’ve been passionate about since I’ve gone to the first one.
RB: Yeah I was gonna say…
DHB: Yeah, the first one back in 2008.
RB: 2008. I was gonna ask how many you had gone to it sounds like quite a few I went to.
DHB: I’ve been to every one of them as either a fan, member of the press, member of the industry every year since 2008 up until the pandemic.
RB: that is that’s that’s quite the track record. All right David. Well, thank you for bringing us this information and hopefully folks find some benefit from hearing about E3 and its cancellation.
DHB: Well, hopefully this this will also a light on for the consumer to look out there. Because, I guess, another nugget I threw out there is most people don’t know the things that are going on behind the scene. And I’ve talked to a few other people that have worked kind of in the gaming industry and even I mean some of them are like people who work at GameStop or you know minor developers or whatever. And they don’t recognize how detrimental this could be to just getting news and information out there beyond what you know wants to be driven by the marketing and PR team.
RB: All right. Well, we’re going to wrap it there. David, thank you.
DHB: I have spoken.
RB: That’s perfect. We will catch you all next week. Have a great day.
Thank you for listening to the Aggrocast resurrected, the official podcast of AggroGamer. For more gaming news and reviews, please check us out at aggrogamer.com. If you enjoyed today’s content, follow and subscribe to get notifications of our next episodes.
RB: It’s not a penis joke.
BOTH: Until now.
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