It was around this time two years ago that I suggested that the games industry needed a second showcase event apart from E3 every June. Following another edition of The Game Awards that was more interested in the new trailers and game reveals than it was in celebrating the best in gaming during the unspecified nomination period. I was planning on leaving this alone because I don’t see The Game Awards ever being an awards show but rather being a product of hype.
Last month, I changed my mind. While it wasn’t the first time they did this, I realized that Sony might have inadvertently stumbled upon exactly what I was looking for with their second PlayStation Experience convention and industry show.
Because it’s relatively new, I think that the PSX, or PlayStation Experience, could do with a little introduction. PSX features a keynote speech in which Sony shows off new games and footage, a series of panels about various topics in gaming and a large floor space for gamers to play current and upcoming games.
If you think about it, by going to a format closer to that of your standard fan convention, PlayStation Experience is already what I’m looking for from an industry showcase event. Granted, it cuts out first party or exclusive Nintendo, Xbox One and PC content. That’s where an industry-wide event has its benefits. Sure, there’s no guarantee that everyone would be willing to play by the same set of rules. For example, E3 is supposed to be the big event but all the news happens at keynotes that aren’t technically officially part of the show.
Perhaps another good comparison would be the PAX series of conventions but with the key difference being that PAX is an independent expo and I’m looking for something closer to E3. That show is run by the ESA which is a trade association supported by the major players in gaming. Having the ESA run a second, smaller trade show would be one way to guarantee attendance from almost all publishers since it would effectively be another internally managed show.
The big difference between E3 and a new trade show would be that the focus should be on the consumer. The Game Awards are three weeks before Christmas. Games are going to be flying off the shelves at that point in time which is why publishers are willing to sponsor it. It’s advertising. What better way to hype games for sale than to get this year’s must own games in front of gamers during the Christmas shopping season. The worst case scenario is that it gets a bunch of games on the radar for sale later.
An industry event that isn’t just for press means that it has to have more than just demo stations and video presentations. It should have the usual panels but conventions also have autograph sessions, photo booths and merchandise tables. While E3 is always a money-losing prospect for publishers in the hope that they’ll recoup that investment down the road when games are released, this event will be much closer to break-even before the first game is sold.
The funny thing is that as much as I dislike The Game Awards, I think that it might be the perfect jumping off point for a new industry event. If everyone is in Los Angeles for a Thursday night awards show, why not have a three-day video game convention in Los Angeles starting the next day? It saves travel costs for the publishers, not that they need these savings in this day and age.
Granted, The Game Awards are also the standing counterargument to requiring another industry event. Why would the big publishers and console manufacturers put their money into a new event when they can get the message they want across by sponsoring or contributing to The Game Awards. The risk and cost are largely Geoff Keighley’s and not theirs. People only watch The Game Awards for announcements and trailers rather than the actual awards so you could make the argument that a new industry event would be redundant.
If companies are happy with the status quo of paying a third-party to say only glowing things about their games (but not necessarily the companies themselves, right Konami?), they may not want to spend even more of their own money through the ESA to host a convention.
The problem I have with most game companies is that they treat customers like a bank account. Mi banco es tu banco so to say. While that’s a typical business relationship, treating customers as an unending source of money will eventually backfire where as treating them with respect will convince them to keep supporting you. Just look at Overkill Software who have joined gamers’ sh*tlist for loading up Payday 2 with microtransactions. Alternatively, the goodwill generated by PlayStation Plus’s Instant Game Collection sure helped Sony out of some bad PR.
No business will ever do something solely out of the goodness of its heart. The sooner that we all accept this, the less we will be disappointed with them. That doesn’t mean that they can’t do something to engender the goodwill of the masses. Giving back to the gamers instead of the press would be a good start.
Sources: PlayStation Experience