For about a week at the beginning of every June, about 65,000 people — including me — travel to Los Angeles to find out what’s coming up next in the world of video games.
The reason I’ve trekked to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest game event in the world, for the past six years is because it’s where big news is made. E3 is where the we first learned about Nintendo’s Wii. It’s where Sony first showed off its PlayStation 3 video game console. It’s where Microsoft kicked off its Kinect motion controller. And it’s where the Oculus virtual reality headset was shown for the first time.
And I’m not kidding when I say biggest. We’re talking more than 800,000 square feet of exhibits and meeting spaces, including larger-than-life statues of Master Chief, the super soldier hero of Microsoft’s Halo video games, movie props from the latest Star Wars film and plenty of monsters.
Even if you’re not gaming, the show is a big deal. That’s because it begins building hype among the world’s 2.6 billion gamers for the devices and titles they’ll want for the holidays. Overall, they spent nearly $100 billion last year on games, according to market researcher Newzoo, and that’s not including the costs of headsets, consoles and computers.
There are going to be more than 2,300 games, devices and toys on display, with at least 75 announcements that haven’t been seen anywhere else in the world. There are going to be shouting fans, two e-sports pavilions where people can watch some of the best gamers in the world compete against one another, possible impromptu musical shows by celebrities (it’s still hush hush) and a whole lot more.
I’m exhausted already.
The real drama of new games and gear usually happens a few days before the “expo” doors open — the show kicks off on Saturday this year. And like in past years, I’m expecting a lot from companies like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Bethesda, as well as console makers Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
How much drama? Two years ago, when Sony announced a remake of Final Fantasy VII, the 1997 industry-defining title, after years of rumors, the E3 crowd got so wound up that someone next to me actually broke down in tears.
For E3 2017, expect news about the latest game in a series where assassins fight an ancient global conspiracy to take over mankind, called Assassin’s Creed. EA on Saturday spilled more details about its upcoming , called Battlefront 2, including from 1999’s “The Phantom Menace” or the new hero Rey from 2015’s “The Force Awakens.”
Nintendo meanwhile is expected to show off more of its upcoming Super Mario Odyssey adventure game on Tuesday. (Here’s GameSpot’s breakdown of everything expected at the show.)
“The event has a personality and a noise level and a robustness that sends a message around the globe,” said Mike Gallagher, head of the Entertainment Software Association, the trade group that puts on E3.
Get your controllers ready
E3 may be considered the industry’s biggest show, but some gamers debate about whether it’s still the best. That’s in part because other confabs, such as the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, Gamescom in Germany, the Tokyo Games Show and PAX fan-based events in the US and Australia, have highlighted a focus on gamer culture.
They have fan get-togethers, shops filled with toys and T-shirts, and chances to meet top internet gaming personalities. E3 is still the largest event for new announcements and big reveals,.
The issue came to a head last year when a few of the industry’s largest players, including Electronic Arts, pulled their booths from the show floor. EA instead held a weekend event for fans called EA Play. It was in LA, open to the public, and focused on letting them try new games and even stream their play online.
“Those are things that might have seemed like a trend a couple years ago and now it’s the norm,” said Chris Bruzzo, EA’s head of marketing. The company’s holding the event again this year, focused even more on the gaming culture highlighted at so many other gaming shows.
E3 is changing though. This year,. Previously, the screaming hordes have been mostly industry insiders and the press.
And in addition to the typical booths and displays, E3 is adding shops around the show selling T-shirts, hoodies and toys connected to top games.
“These are gamers and they want to be amazed,” Gallagher said.
And so do I.
First published June 9, 5 a.m. PT.
Update, June 11, at 10:55 a.m.: Adds details from EA’s press briefing Saturday.
Logging Out: Welcome to the crossroads of online life and the afterlife.
Virtual reality 101: CNET tells you everything you need to know about VR.