Last week was the annual E3 expo in Los Angeles and I published a long writing piece with my thoughts on the various press conferences that I watched. As you might recall, Square Enix and Nintendo (and Devolver Digital) chose not to have live press conferences but rather to release prerecorded showcases of their upcoming games. EA, Microsoft, Bethesda, Ubisoft, and Sony took the traditional approach but both EA and Bethesda would probably have been better off if they had gone the route that Square Enix and Nintendo had taken. That got me wondering if live E3 press conferences are really even needed anymore. Would we be better served if everyone did prerecorded showcases?
There’s definitely an argument to made for the prerecorded E3 show: it allows the game publisher to have exact control over the length of the program and what is shown, and also ought to cut down on wasted time and awkward moments. There would be no risk of technical issues during a game demo or of a person saying the wrong thing during their presentation (assuming the team filming and editing the video doesn’t let any mistakes slip by). Releasing a prerecorded showcase would also probably be cheaper, since it would allow game publishers to avoid going through the cost and hassle of setting up and managing a live show.
Those are strong arguments, but against all of them there’s still one powerful argument to be mustered in favor of a live E3 conference: there’s nothing like the excitement and hype surrounding a live show. Yes, if you drop the ball and have a bad show then the mood is gone, but get it right then you have a tent, auditorium, or concert hall full of rapturous applause and screaming, which feels great to everyone in attendance looks really good on camera. There’s a special energy to a live show, whether you’re in the crowd or watching from home, that you simply don’t get from a prerecorded showcase.
So I guess my position on the issue of live press conferences is that they are not necessary, but I’d like to see them continue, at least under certain circumstances. If a publisher doesn’t have enough meaningful content to fill up a whole hour then they’re probably better off recording everything and not wasting peoples’ time with filler material. On the other hand, if a publisher has a lot of quality content then they can think about going the route of a live conference, though if they decided to abandon the live show and release an hour-long video instead I’d totally understand.