In 2019, E3 is slipping.
Nintendo also won’t be there, though this isn’t a surprise. The Big N hasn’t had a live keynote since 2013 when it started airing its pre-recorded Directs. It’s become a watershed decision for Nintendo after the Wii and 3DS’s success, letting the Japanese giant focus on its dedicated fanbase with endearing, celebratory live-streams both during E3 season and throughout the rest of the year. It’s helped the company stand out further from Microsoft and Sony’s central rivalry, too.
Then they both go and do something very similar right before E3 kicks off.
On May 30, Sony launched an 8-minute trailer for Hideo Kojima’s upcoming Death Stranding. It gave the highly anticipated title a release date and – finally – some concrete gameplay. With barely any marketing or build-up, Death Stranding’s gameplay reveal was as effective as Sony could’ve hoped for and garnered two million views in six hours.
On June 5, Nintendo and Game Freak released a Direct for Pokémon Sword and Shield, and just like every other time they’ve done this, it caught the internet’s attention for a solid day or so (a rare feat).
They weren’t the only publishers to do this, with announcements bubbling up regularly during the weeks leading up to the conference, but Sony and Nintendo stand out as two of the three console developers. Right before E3, both chose times to carve out their own ‘moments’ before the big show. Instead of sharing the E3 spotlight, they found their own. They took advantage of the excited seasonal atmosphere of E3, sure, but what Nintendo realised in 2013 and Sony this year is that the all-powerful Electronic Entertainment Expo has lost much of its impact and draw.
They aren’t the only ones. EA, announced to significantly less interest, is doing the same and skipping the press conference for a series of gameplay-focused livestreams instead. As they’ve done the last few years, the company is holding its EA Play conference at the Hollywood Palladium, right before E3 proper kicks off at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Further down the hierarchy are a few smaller organisations with their own presentations, opposite the gaudy spectacle of the majors. Upload VR is holding its own press conference for the first time this year on June 10, pre-recorded like Nintendo’s; PC Gamer is holding its conference for the fifth year running on June 11; and Kinda Funny is holding its second Games Showcase on June 11 as well.
Small 16-person publisher Devolver Digital is about to hold its third E3 anti-conference on June 10, too, which is as bizarre now as it would have sounded a decade ago. Devolver shares the spotlight with the biggest publishers but has, in keeping with its attitude as a company, found its niche. It leverages the season in its own way with giant Adult Swim-style skits that take the piss out of the formulaic buzzword-centric, stockholder-friendly keynotes that other publishers trot out year after year. Devolver transforms its own presence into a joke at the expense of E3 itself.