Way back in 1997, I worked for my hometown newspaper, the Morganton News Herald in Morganton NC, as a reporter. I was also heavily into PC gaming, particularly first-person shooters like Doom, Quake, Descent, Duke Nukem 3D, and more. When it was announced that the 1997 Electronic Entertainment Expo would be held in Atlanta, less than four hours' drive away, I got my press credentials in order and went down to Atlanta to cover the event.
That would begin a long journey to cover the annual trade show, in Atlanta and the Los Angeles area, for a variety of media outlets, over the span of over 15 years. That includes three years (2011, 2012, and 2013) of reporting on the event for Neowin.
While there are lots of things that I could write about my memories of covering E3, there are some stand out moments that I can recall clearly:
- I was one of the first folks to see the opening cinematic for a new Blizzard game called Starcraft at E3 1997 at Sierra's press event, along with being blown away by a live demo from another little-known upcoming game, Half-Life, from a new developer called Valve.
- I remember going behind closed doors during E3 1998 to see the Quake II engine-based version of 3D Realms' Duke Nukem Forever that got quickly canceled and replaced with the Unreal Engine version that finally got released in 2011.
- I got to interview Kate Mulgrew, Captain Kathryn Janeway, inside Activision's E3 booth during E3 2000 to help promote Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force.
- I went to the Playboy Mansion, not once but twice, at separate E3s to cover the development of Playboy: The Mansion video game (yes, it was definitely a different time).
- I endured the 2007 edition of E3, which wasn't held in one location but instead inside several small meeting rooms in Santa Monica,, California. That show was very ill advised.
- I got to see the very cool demo behind closed doors for the now legendary canceled Star Wars 1313 game, at E3 2012, also known as the Boba Fett game.
That's honestly just a sampling of the memories I have in covering E3 events. That doesn't even cover the various major console press conferences I attended, where Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sega (yep, Sega) would reveal their plans and bring in non-gaming celebs to help pump up their presentations.
When it was announced that the 2023 edition of E3, was being canceled, I admit that I was a bit surprised. Yes, major publishers like Microsoft were not attending on the show floor, but I thought there would be enough smaller publishers to make for an interesting trade show.
However, based on a Gamesindustry.biz interview this week with Stanley Pierre-Louis, the president and CEO of E3's owners the Electronic Software Association, it really shouldn't have come as a huge shock. The truth is that the ESA, and ReedPop, who took over E3's actual organizational duties last year, were not prepared for the many game publishers who decided that attending the Los Angeles trade show was simply not worth the money or time.
Quite frankly, I don't see a path forward for bringing the show back in 2024, and even Pierre-Louis didn't confirm or deny that E3 will return next year. The truth is that game publishers can make the same impact with fans by offering their game announcements via streaming events like Microsoft's upcoming Xbox Game Showcase.
Even if E3 does come back next year, it may just be an all-virtual event. I think that the show's appearances inside the LA Convention Center, which hasn't held the show since 2019, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, are over.
I will miss it, however, I will miss seeing the huge banners being put up both inside and outside the LA Convention Center. I will miss going to some of the E3 parties that sometimes had big name music guests. None were bigger than Activision's 2010 E3 event, which was held in the formerly named Staples Center and had music acts like Eminem, Rihanna, Usher, and even a choir of 200 gospel singers at one point.
Most of all, I will miss demoing or seeing hands-off demos games that wouldn't come out for years or, as I've mentioned earlier, would never come out at all. Being able to get that kind of experience made E3 fun to attend and report on over the years. The age of streaming has made that kind of high profile demo old fashioned, and I think that's a shame. Perhaps in the future, some other group can come up with a big summer-based US gaming event, perhaps similar to Germany's Gamescom, that will take the place of E3. For now, however, it seems we must say goodbye to the show and leave it with fond memories and playing great games.