What’s the Secret to E3’s Attention-Grabbing Success?

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, the videogame industry’s premier event, has become a dominant force in the cultural conversation, appealing to the public in a way few tradeshows can. And that success comes down to the fact that game publishers don’t hold back during their livestreamed press conferences.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, for a variety of reasons, is the rare industry event with wide pop-culture appeal—an appeal that has created problems for the Entertainment Software Association in the past.

In recent years, ESA has struggled to keep the event’s tradeshow roots intact as videogame fans increasingly became interested in its offerings.

But as the full E3 expands into a more consumer-friendly event—albeit with a portion of the day that’s only available to industry professionals—it’s worth talking about why gamers are so intrigued by the event in the first place.

A big part of it involves the publisher showcase events, which play a similar role to TV network “upfronts”—effectively, a preview of what’s coming up in the next few months. These events hit the public with a lot in just a little bit of time, and gamers can’t get enough of them.

Every major company in the gaming industry put on one of these events in the days just before E3, which tend to trend on social media and draw lots of livestreams from folks at home.

The secret to the success of these press conferences appears to be the aggressive pummeling of the public with lots of stuff—i.e., games—at once. And not just the big name “tentpole” games, either.

In a recent piece for Polygon, Julia Alexander compared the scope of the events to other high-profile affairs with public appeal, like Apple’s keynotes and San Diego Comic-Con, and found that the results were nowhere near as impactful as what game companies do during E3. Per Alexander:

There are thousands of games released every year, from indie titles to AAA blockbusters. Companies like Microsoft and Sony collect as many titles as possible for their events, using E3 as a way to showcase the entire breadth of their operations. Small games join big titles on the main stage, and everything gets treated like royalty, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Companies risk being seen as failures if they don’t have dozens of trailers and announcements.

This creates a major opportunity for the industry to appeal to the public, and each of the press conferences this week had a livestream, and they weren’t just limited to one platform. In fact, many of the press events took place on YouTube, Twitch, and Mixer.

But even for developers and industry figures, the events hold a lot of attention and appeal, as the convention gives attendees an opportunity to see what other companies are doing—something that, as The Hollywood Reporter notes, they often appreciate as fans, not competitors.

The result is a highly interactive event that has the ability to both draw a ton of eyebrows and dominate the cultural conversation.

Even if your association isn’t aiming for such dominance, there is a lot to take from the strategy: putting industry front and center, showcasing the depth and breadth of the work being done in the industry, and putting emphasis on the livestreams, so those at home can appreciate the attention-grabbing moments, too.

A display for the popular game Fortnite at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. (Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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