Every gamer has dreamed of going to E3. I did back when I was in high-school and even made a devious plan to sneak in if I didn’t get my way. Years later, and thousands of articles published on gaming websites, I finally got to go. It was mind blowing and a total “holy crap” moment for me, but then things set in.
E3 isn’t what you think it is, instead it basically boils down to a restricted Disney Land for gamers. Before you even get in the door to the convention center you get in line. Many people sit outside for hours just so they could secure their free convention parking, while others are stuck paying 30 bucks at some shady lot across the street. Hotel prices already deflated your wallet rather nicely, and the chances are you were not lucky enough to get a close by hotel with a shuttle since they sell out almost instantly.
E3 is a mix of journalists from all around the world all bundled up within one building. The only place I’ve been to that has been more crowded was San Diego Comic Con. Everything comes in inches. Getting in the door could take an hour, getting in a booth for a game you wanted to see could take 2 hours. My first E3 had no real major console releases, but I still had to sit in lines all day and only got to play maybe 5 games on my first day.
The second time I had attended E3 the Vita was about to release and I had to spend an entire day of E3 waiting in line to try it. The sad part is that we finally got in, played a few games, then got kicked out before our tour was over because E3 closed for the day and they waste no time showing you the door. WiiU was also new and I didn’t play it because that line had a waiting list before the doors even opened. Lastly PlayStation VR had a waiting list, but instead they gave you a slip and told you to come back at a specified time, but when you returned you were still standing in line for about an hour.
My point is that E3 takes planning on multiple stages. After my first E3 I learned to better coordinate with PR people being the PR Activision provided was the most helpful people I met. She knew it was my first E3 and gave me some pointers, while also scheduling me for gaming events at their booth. I found that helpful and decided to do it with other publishers. My following E3 I had 3 days’ worth of meetings with PR people at E3. I had it down by the hour, so right after one meeting we had to run over to another one. Sometimes meetings are on opposite halls so that consists of sprinting across the entire convention center to get to another booth. It’s very hectic even when well planned out, and when a specific PR person skips a step and perhaps takes too long, or doesn’t accommodate you properly, it throws a wrench into the mix.
After this I learned that E3 isn’t just what slaps you in the face when you walk in, there is actually a hidden layer beneath that which needs to be unlocked. By having these meetings I saw games that were not advertised, I got to play demos that were otherwise simply shown to crowds by developers, and I got to see the games people were going nuts over during the opening conferences.
This is my problem with the attendee tickets that E3 is trying to sell people. Based on my research these tickets do not unlock this layer, and facing facts E3 isn’t Comic Con. You are not going to walk out with a huge swag bag full of stuff. You are not going to go shopping in an exhibition hall. More importantly most of the games you are excited to see are hidden behind a “media only” door. A door that even some journalists fail to get behind because they didn’t plan accordingly.
Most games you are pumped to “play” are played for you. I remember being super excited to try out Metal Gear Solid V. I spent months talking to the PR people and they set me up with a meeting for the developers. We finally got there and we simply watched them play, and talk about, the demo everyone saw at the conference earlier that week. We got a little bit further, but that demo was also released a few days later. This is how it was for many games I was so desperate to say I “played,” like Mortal Kombat X, Call of Duty, etc… EA is generally good with letting you play their games, but certain ones like Mass Effect are generally “watch only” events.
The most important thing to realize about all of this is that conferences are not included. The biggest thing that I wanted to participate in was the conferences. This is what got me wanting to go to E3. I wanted to sit there live, watching them reveal new things, or better yet develop a game that got me on that stage. Lucky me my first dream came through on my first trip to E3. I was invited to watch all 3 major conferences. (At that time, Nintendo still hosted one.) Yet I wondered around the halls looking for where to go before a security guard told us to jump in a cab and go to another location. Sony’s is normally hosted in a small stadium down the street, Microsoft in a hotel the other direction.
Getting to them is a trip, and then these events are also treated like their own events. You get new passes, new badges, and have to get there in time before it fills up. (Sony, one time, got so full that even Kojima was turned away!)
But the important thing to note is that they are not a part of E3. From an audience perspective, they are, these conferences start what we know as E3, but they are not hosted in any way by E3 itself. If you get passes to E3 you are not given access to these events. You must talk with those companies and be a part of press, or an invited guest, to get in. So, if you think your 250 dollar E3 badge is getting you into what most people are excited for, you will be disappointed.
So as you can see, the badges are not entirely “worth it” unless you are just looking for the general experience of being there. If these badges are going to break your bank, I wouldn’t bother. Instead work for it and get the real experience that you are craving. Going in blind is a lot like going to your favorite theme park with no plan on what to do. Most “veteran” Disney Land goers already know which ride they are running to right when the gates open. When you go to E3 you need that same game plan, with a majority of your day laid out on a schedule.
Unless E3 intends to become more like a Comic Con, there is no purpose to simply gettiing in.