My favorite marketing event of the year is here: E3! If you ended up at this post by accident and are unfamiliar, E3 is the biggest trade show/press conference/advertising event in the video game world.
For the initiated, we all know the cycle.
- Get hyped and excited about game shown at E3
- Grow more skeptical as the games release date closes in
- Get your hopes and dreams crushed as the game disappoints
- Rinse and repeat the next year
That’s not to say all E3 games end up disappointments, but those that live up to hype-train expectations are few and far between. Sales narratives become a part of a game’s fiction and when that narrative promises more than the software can deliver we end up with Fable or Watch Dogs. Our hearts get broken.
We all know to remain skeptical, but every year we eagerly watch and attend E3. It may be dumb, but it’s a dumb hope. And I’ll be eagerly watching again next year.
There’s something cathartic about the event, the announcements, the surprises, and confirmed rumors. We don’t keep coming back because of some commercialized Stockholm complex.
We keep coming back for that silly but happy moment when a beloved character walks on screen or the familiar theme of favorite franchise fills your speakers or the debut of some promising future of the medium.
I suppose I’m justifying my own excitement for what really is a sophisticated marketing event. It’s a way to get players to pull out their wallets for preorders. E3 is meant to sell hardware and software. The cynicism deepens with every rehearsed presentation from a business person pretending to be a game enthusiast.
Yet E3’s true joys, being caught up in the feeling of something special (whether it is or not), are free. No need to preorder. No need to dash your hopes just yet. On the other side of that corporate office appeasing stakeholders, are thousands of talented engineers, artists, writers, and directors who hope that you love the thing they made for you.
Sony opened their conference with a live orchestral score booming with mystery and norse-ian chants a la Skyrim. Then the game started. The character seemed unfamiliar. A cam in the lower right hand corner of the footage displayed a man controlling the game live. He playfully raised his eyebrows at the camera to prefigure the coming reveal.
An old Kratos from the God of War series stepped into the frame. The crowd erupted into decibel levels unmatched at the whole event. That man who was playing the game is the lead for the new God of War. When the crowd lost their shit, he let out a smile of relief and pride you cannot fake.
The crowd’s reaction justified 2+ years of difficult work. It seemed to remind him why he was here. For the same reason many of us watch E3, to share in the affinity for this intoxicating medium and to experience it’s greatest product: joy.