What Does The Future Hold For Gaming Conventions?
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What Does The Future Hold For Gaming Conventions?

They say every journey begins with a single step. While somewhat true, there is still more to a journey’s beginning than meets the eye, namely the why and where. I mention this semi-philosophical BS because of what we’re about to discuss. At first glance, it should seem simple, just write a piece on COVID-19 and its effect on gaming. But it’s not quite so simple. This is a complex issue, something that doesn’t have a definitive answer, only speculation and educated guesswork. 

On December 31st 2019, the Chinese government sent out an alert to the World Health Organization that a severe and unusual new illness, very similar to pneumonia had broken out in Wuhan, a city in China. A week later, it had gained a name and a classification. Only a few days after that, it started spreading out into the world, starting with relatively close countries such as Japan and Thailand, but not taking too long to spread out even further. Come February… it had basically spread across the entire planet. It’s now a global pandemic, however not one to encourage Left 4 Dead-inspired collaborative fun, but rather a “Stay inside to stay safe” kind of ordeal. And then, mid-March, the announcement a lot of people expected but wished wouldn’t happen, happened… E3 2020 had been cancelled. Which brings us to today’s topic. In the wake of said announcement… Now what?

If E3, the biggest event in gaming (aside from the announcement of a new Red Faction, but I digress) shuts its doors in lieu of this virus, what does this say about the future of game conventions? If you ask me, I don’t think game conventions will be gone forever, but I get the feeling they might be handled a bit differently. 

For years now, E3 has helped drum up hype for upcoming releases, allowing developers and publishers to show off their new upcoming titles, on the biggest screens, in front of huge crowds. What’s interesting though is that for the longest time, E3 was exclusively only open to members of the press. Non-press members were allowed to get into the convention center to see the latest IPs. It’s only in recent years that regular Joes could be let in. And with the fear this virus has instilled in people recently, I get the feeling that the Electronic Software Association (the company that organizes E3) might backpedal a bit on this increase in crowd sizes. Do I think they’ll completely revoke the rights of the general public to get in? I doubt that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they reduced the number of people who are allowed to come in since we’ve been discouraged recently from bigger crowds. 

As of late, due to the announcements of conventions being cancelled, people have suggested that maybe we could still have something go on, but with it all happening on a stream rather than on a big, sweat-covered stage in California. A lot of the E3 showings have even been on stream for the past few years, showing the smelly stage shows not just to the people in attendance, but also to dedicated followers who sit with their laptops. Just have someone working for the ESA go first on stream, saying a few words, welcoming you to this stream, then cut to say Square Enix, and have them show off some footage for Final Fantasy XXVII. I like this idea quite a bit… but I can also see one issue people might have with it. 

At E3, journos (and recently common folks as well) have been able to try actual demos for the games shown at the show. This is a bit harder to do if you put it on stream, however. Whatcha gonna do, make all the demos available for everyone to download on PSN/XBOX Live/Steam? I’m inclined to think less so.

What’s interesting about this whole streaming debate is that IGN of all companies recently announced something like this, a so-called “Summer of Gaming”. So maybe this whole streaming of video game announcements isn’t too crazy after all. Sure, there’s still the whole demo debacle, but keep in mind, this is a first for IGN (and for any company, really), so I’m sure there will be kinks that need to be ironed out as they go along. And I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, because I don’t take pride in the failure of my fellow man, preferring to praise success… unless I beat my friends in Smash Bros, then the mockery is completely justified.

So, what is the future of game conventions in the wake of recent developments? I don’t know, I’m not a damn oracle. But if I were to speculate, I do think logistically speaking, they will be made smaller as a precaution, not allowing as many patrons at the scene. Or maybe they’ll give up on stage shows and move permanently into streaming if IGN’s little experiment works out. Only time will tell what the future holds. All I can say for sure is that nothing will be exactly the same as before.

Have a good one.

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