For anyone out there who is passionate about gaming, whether it is a casual hobby or a more serious day-to-day obsession like myself, there is nothing more exciting than when E3 rolls around each year in June. E3 (or Electronic Entertainment Expo) is a premier gaming event that has been held for 22 years now in the City of Angels (also known as Los Angeles). It is used by gaming publishers and developers to show off their upcoming games with flashy trailers and often heavily scripted gameplay videos. Accessory manufacturers also use the event to introduce their new and upcoming hardware and merchandise to the world. The event lasts three days and consists of live press conferences by the major publishers and then a three-day expo that the public has previously not had access to. The main events are always Sony’s and Microsoft’s presentations with both companies hoping their arsenal of announcements will outshine the other. What is not surprising anymore are the big-ticket items being introduced more often such as console upgrades and VR reveals that are gluing gamers to their live streams.
Stairway to heaven
For the past 21 years access to all this excitement has been restricted to members of the press and games industry. However, in 2017, the ESA opened up E3 to the general public for the first time ever, much to the delight of gamers around the world. Despite the cost of a ticket being $250 USD, a hefty price to pay to rub shoulders with some of gaming’s royalty, tickets were sold out within the first couple days of release. Attending E3 has been a dream of mine for a long time, so I bit the bullet and I purchased a ticket at the cost of $320 AUD, and after spending a small fortune on flights and accommodation I was ready to jet out to LA and attend E3. While my ticket didn’t grant me access to the presentations (which I watched from my hotel room), I was excited to get my hands on the myriad of titles on offer to the general public.
The 13th of June was day one for the general public. I arrived about five minutes before the doors were set to open, a rookie mistake by this solo tourist from Perth, Western Australia, as the sheer number of people waiting for entry was crazy (it wrapped around the side of building!). Once I was finally inside I took a moment to take in the fact that here I was standing inside the lobby of an E3 Expo convention. Box ticked. As a Games Manager at JB HiFi, I have previously attended similar conferences exclusively held for our company where we get early access to some upcoming games. However, E3 is next level, and with approximately 68,000 attendees this year it was going to be a mission to navigate through the horde of giddy gamers. E3 was split between two main exhibit halls, which were the West and South halls.
Just waiting for a game…
The South Hall was built around companies such as Xbox, Ubisoft, Warner Brothers Studios, Activision, Square Enix, Namco, Take-Two, Capcom and Bethesda being the main exhibits amongst a bunch of smaller publishers. Xbox had the most efficient display area for getting people in and out of booths with a plethora of screens dedicated to each of their playable demos including Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Crackdown 3, Forza Motorsport 7, Sea of Thieves and more. One of the games I enjoyed playing was Super Lucky’s Tale, which is a cute little platformer cross between Banjo-Kazooie and Spyro exclusive to Xbox One and Windows 10. I especially enjoyed playing this as it was clever as well as adorable with it definitely being aimed at families so both older and younger players could enjoy it. While lining up to play this title Microsoft had a little interactive green screen where you could pretend you were flying and they gave you a really cool cape to take home, as well as a link to the video. While waiting in line I got talking with one of the volunteers and learnt that he was a producer for Ori and the Blind Forest, a game which I loved. Naturally I fangirled super hard, and what was even cooler was that he gave me a very sought-after pin from the video game.
The lines for the games were long (as you can imagine), and I had to channel my inner Ezio Auditore and stealthily commandeer a station from time to time to get a go at some of the aforementioned titles. Xbox also had the Xbox One X (formerly known as Project Scorpio) on display in a clear case for all passersby to bask in its glory. The first thing I noticed about the console was just how much smaller it looked compared to its predecessors. Despite its thin and sleek look the console is reportedly quite heavy (it is packing a fair amount of power from all reports). I’m quite impressed by what Microsoft have designed with the Xbox One X, so much so it might convince to get back into bed with the company after selling my original Xbox One to fund parts of this trip.
Can you see the power?
The most impressive display in the South Hall definitely goes to Warner Bros. with their incredible Nazgul display for Shadow of War. This beauty breathed smoke occasionally and the impressive mood lighting attracted many fans to climb aboard and take a photo. This was accompanied by realistic looking Orcs who paraded around the Warner display, insulting and terrorising attendees to make it fun for those waiting in the line to go inside the Warner Bros. theatre. There was a 45-minute wait to get inside, but Warner showed some interviews with developers behind Shadow of War and Injustice 2 to make the time pass quicker. The theatre seated about 60 people, and everyone who ventured inside got a XXL promotional shirt (that I’ll probably wear as a nightie) along with an impressive gameplay video of Shadow of War that showcased the new and updated Nemesis system. We were also shown some of the different ways we could use Orcs to join our army and fight for us which followed a very impressive fort takeover and a quick glance at the new skill tree.
In traditional Ubisoft style, their booth featured a live stage with professional dancers showcasing Just Dance 2018. The stage gave the Ubisoft arena a fun and engaging vibe, with attendees invited to dance alongside the other cast members whilst watching the screen above. Next to the stage on one side we had Assassin’s Creed: Origins, and over the other side Far Cry 5 and The Crew 2 each with lines over an hour long to wait for.
Assassin’s Creed is one of my favourite gaming series of all time, and Origins is the tenth major title in the series. As a huge fan of ancient Egyptian history (who doesn’t love The Mummy movies?), I was very excited when Ubisoft announced that Origins would be set in ancient Egypt. I was given a fifteen minute window to explore and get as far as I possibly could, not nearly enough time to satisfy my urges but enough to whet my appetite for the game’s release in October. The game was being played on an Xbox One system and it looked gorgeous. However, one mechanic that might give those familiar with the series a shock to the system is the new combat control scheme that myself and the person next to me had trouble getting used to. The control scheme offered no counter attack options, just strictly spamming the new attack buttons to survive (which on this Xbox one controller was RT and RB). It was not made clear whether other control schemes would be made available, but having a quick draw Bow as ‘X’ gave me the idea they wanted you to use this as your primary weapon.
Other booths that drew a lot of attention were Activision’s Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: WW2, the Twitch partner’s area, Bandai Namco’s Dragon Ball Fighter Z as well as Bethesda’s Wolfenstein2 and The Evil Within 2, which had a really cool and creepy experience. As I was lining up to enter what I thought was a theatre the attendant asked me if I was alone before ushering me into a dimly lit hallway. As I rounded the corner of the hall I was greeted by the sounds of rain and thunder, with the walls lined with concept art from the upcoming horror game. Then the lights started flickering on and off with screams echoing around me causing me to stop dead in my place and wish I could click my heels three times to go home. It was a successful scare tactic as I hurried the heck out of there only to be photographed at the end as pictorial evidence of my horrific experience; it was a terrific way to introduce me to several themes and an overall vibe of being inside the game.
The West Hall was easily the most crowded with PlayStation and Nintendo occupying a large space of the showroom. Nintendo had a substantial space with a rather large screen right up front for ARMS and Splatoon 2 tournaments, which were then followed by booths to trial both of these games. Mário Odyssey was definitely Nintendo’s showpiece (it also won multiple Game of E3 awards), with it having a spot right in the middle of the room and a wait time to play of nearly two hours. As a huge fan of PlayStation the PlayStation area of E3 is a passionate subject of mine to talk about, however it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Uncharted is one of my favourite series of all time, and as I neared the front of the line a PlayStation attendee asked to see my booking, something I wasn’t aware I needed to have. As a result I wasn’t able to view the gameplay session until much later. Apparently all bookings are done via the PlayStation Experience app, so if you ever come to E3 remember to download that in advance. I eventually managed to book a time slot to see some Uncharted: Lost legacy gameplay and got to watch a truly epic scene with Nadine and Chloe, a cool tote bag was given to us to remind us of our experience.
PlayStation also had Spiderman, Detroit: Become Human and Days Gone theatres you could book into. Playable games were Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Knack 2, FIFA 18, Gran Turismo Sport and a few others. Capcom’s Monster Hunter World also had an incredible dragon display in front of their theatre room, however I never ventured inside but I took a lot of sneaky snaps of me pretending to be eaten by it. Other games that attracted a lot of attention were Yakuza 6, Lawbreakers, Marvel vs Capcom, Total War Warhammer 2, Everybody’s Golf, and WRC 7.
E3 has a lot to learn from its first year letting in the public. 15,000 tickets were sold to the general public and that meant that 15,000 extra people had to be accounted for with lines for games, food (the food at the convention centre was truly awful, I got a good look at the American diet this way) and buying merchandise this year. I felt sorry for the media who were there just to do their job, and having 15,000 fans pointing selfie sticks and cameras and recording devices all around them whilst they are trying to do the same thing as a paid professional would have surely been infuriating when you are trying to fit in so much coverage in three days. Walking around the expo was bumper to bumper; you would line up for each game for a minimum of 45 minutes so you had to choose wisely about what you wanted to play or view.
Over the three days I spent at E3 I roamed between exhibition halls trying to fit in as many activities as possible and despite the massive crowd it was such an amazing experience to be there and get my hands on some exciting upcoming games. The highlights for me were playing Sea of Thieves, Super Lucky’s Tale, Assassin’s Creed: Origins and watching gameplay videos for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Super Mario Odyssey. However, the ultimate highlight and my game of E3 was Shadow of War. As a Lord of the Rings fanatic (I may be slightly biased) it was incredible to see what the team at Monolith Productions have in store for players with the sequel. Seeing what they have expanded on from Shadow of Mordor has me very excited and I honestly cannot wait to see what the next chapter in Taillon’s tale brings when the game releases on October 11, 2017.
I have included a short Q&A of questions that people have commonly asked me since my return. Hopefully they help people who are on the fence about attending in the years to come.
As an Australian travelling on your own to the other side of the world, was E3 worth it?
Firstly, I would never have just travelled to LA to do E3 and come home; I used E3 as an excuse to travel the country including Florida, New York and Washington as well. On my final flight home from Auckland back to Perth I ran into an idol of mine, Alannah Pearce, a fellow Australian now living in San Francisco writing for IGN. I took this opportunity to have a chat to her about the expo and what we both loved, hated and are excited for. I honestly couldn’t believe my luck sitting down at an empty coffee shop and looking over to see her sitting there, I was incredibly flustered and overjoyed that she took the time to speak to me when she was just as jetlagged as myself. She is a fellow female gaming enthusiast with passions that mirror mine, I have been following her career for quite some time now and I am so inspired on how far she has come (now hosting a Disney show for IGN as well). Honestly E3 was an incredible experience, I met so many people and got to talk to people passionate about the same things as me and also show off all my Lord of the Rings tattoos. I could never take back an incredible experience like this, so yes it was worth it. SO MUCH FREE STUFF!
Did I see everything I wanted to see?
No, not at all. I honestly spent way too long on my first day just scoping the place out and watching others play games as well as attending panels and interviews. I should have bitten the bullet and lined up for things and not cared about how long it was going to be, if I can do it at Disneyworld why can’t I do it here? I got to play plenty of things sure, but not as much as I wanted.
Would I do it again?
If the E3 organisers implement changes to improve the expo (such as accommodating the extra numbers) I will absolutely go back next year. As much as I admire PlayStation for taking a different approach with their smartphone app to access panels and games I found that it limited the number of people who got to view their products (I JUST REALLY WANTED TO PLAY BATTLEFRONT 2). What I really wanted to comment on was how truly amazing the gaming community is. 68,000 people and I never heard one person complain, throw a tantrum, yell, insult or get angry at another person. It was truly remarkable how many lovely comments and compliments I got and how interested people were in talking to someone as well as having their own day planned out and strict schedule to stick by. Being a gamer is incredible and E3 brings all those people together united by one passion and to show their love for something that truly makes our lives great and makes us unique.