If you’re not a hard-core gamer, why would you ever venture into the deafening, frenetic chaos that is E3? The three-day electronics gaming convention held in Los Angeles each summer has a reputation for bombast and over-the-top extravaganza. As it hurdles into its twenty-first year amidst reports of sky-rocketing booth costs forcing major players to pull out of the main floor, questions have arisen around its continued relevance. Is there still a meaningful place for E3 in the wider marketing community’s landscape or is it simply a trade event for the geeks and journalists?
As I wandered through the illuminated, tech-laden halls, it seemed to me that, for now at least, E3 remains in the former camp; a destination still worthy of a visit. After all, when you’re dealing with an industry that’s valued at $99.3bn globally, that touches 1.2 bn gamers around the world, and possesses an enviable level of fan commitment and adulation (the average 13+ gamer in the US spends 6.3 hours a week playing video games), it’s critical to immerse yourself in that passion point and take learnings and inspiration from it.
E3 offers marketers a glimpse into the future. Into the future of devices, content, and consumer behaviour. E3 acts a portal into tomorrow’s living room, showing us the devices that will move from niche gaming to mass family use, the content that will move from game to film, and the likelihood of gamers embracing technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality into their gaming experience.
A tour of the showroom floor revealed four things:
1. Content reigns supreme.
This year, there was a palpable shift in emphasis from hardware to content. With Sony heralded as the winner on day one for its focus on exclusive game content, it was clear that the fans were most excited by the stories and the worlds that they will discover and the adventures that they’ll have online.
2. Devices are becoming Personal.
In a move that suggested a nod towards fashion and a response to the consumer desire for personalisation, Microsoft Xbox Design Lab announced that it’s allowing players to design and order their own Xbox One controllers. However, beyond the physical stamping of our selves onto devices, it’s the personalisation and application player data that’s really interesting.
3. VR is right around the corner.
VR gaming is a reality and whilst there was no single app held up as hero, news that Sony will launch its VR platform this October means that we’re on our way to hitting mass consumption levels. Whilst developers admitted that they’re still figuring out the implications of VR on the lone and shared gaming experience , and that they’ll need players to come on that journey with them, perhaps it is that very act of co-discovery that makes VR so revolutionary.
4. Competition heats up with the ongoing rise of eSports Leagues
Whilst the debate continues around whether eSports is a true sport or merely a competition, participation is becoming increasingly professional and high-profile, and spectatorship has become both event-based and shared. With global audiences exceeding 226mn, the opportunities to surround eSports stadiums and support players and fans is clear. Last year, Nissan leant into eSports by becoming a tournament sponsor, and this year Pepsi launched the ice-tea Brisk Mate to gamers to keep them refreshed and energized. We can expect more brands to actively explore this space and develop ways of giving fans access to the events and to the stars they’re now following in droves.
In an innovation-hungry world, it’s key that we look at how we can infuse the thinking of one sector into another. Inspiration comes from putting yourself in unfamiliar spaces and the ongoing evolution within the gaming industry cements its position as a source of inspiration and marketing activation.