Electronic Arts is an American behemoth of video game production, marketing, and publishing. They develop and publish their games under several labels. EA Sports is responsible for FIFA, Madden, NFL, NBA Live etc. Other labels are used for a variety of titles such as Dead Space, Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Evidently it is important they keep up with appearances at all events that relate to their products, for the sake of both their investors and consumers.  However, they announced there won’t be any EA booths this year at E3. The reasons behind this decision may be of interest, considering that Activision, another epochal game developer, joined EA’s decision in not having a booth either.

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You might think it’s not a big deal, but it is. When you opt out of having a booth at E3, you are relegated to the back of the line if you wish to return. The space EA and Activision are giving up will not return to them, in any case. Unless they spend millions more than it’s worth.

EA at E3 2014

Activision said they will still be present, in partnership with Sony, with several games to show, though without a booth of their own. While EA is having their own event(s). They named it EA Play, a three-day event. It will be taking place both in LA and London. Unlike E3, it will be open to the public.

EA Play will start two days before E3 launches, on the Sunday before E3

The other minor issue is whether or not this is a repeat of past events. Not too long ago, in 2007, big publishers collectively decided not to bid in this war of escalation (electronic companies used to – and still do – outbid each other by large sums for quality floor-space. This is to insure they have enough publicity for their software.)  These companies then tried to market themselves through mainstream media, which was not the norm for these products. It obviously did not fair well for them, as they resorted back to attending E3 in full capacity by 2009. Activision, who opted out not too long ago, now resorts to a booth on the outskirts of the floor plan.

However, does EA’s decision signify the start of a larger change?

Will other publishers follow EA’s example and instead try to create their own events, or Activision and partner with other companies? Instead of spending a million dollars on a booth at E3, they could use their resources to interact with the public more directly. After all, the Electronics Entertainment Expo is not open to the public (yet).  The majority of attendees at E3 are journalists from gaming outlets who cover them for their websites.

This decision is a consequence of the growing skepticism about the nature of E3. The event has become cyclical and, to an extent, monotonous for larger companies. In the sense that for companies such as EA ( Ubisoft, Square Enix, Activision etc) who have the connections, resources, and global branding, there are ways to market their products without spending millions on attending this event. One successful alternative – already in use – is simple: send codes out to Twitch-streamers, and YouTube Let’s Players who have thousands of people watching them play games. Secondly, note that these companies employ analysts to inspect the return on the money they spend to attend every E3. They are always crunching numbers and double-checking whether their money is being spent efficiently.

On the coverage side of E3 the return is obvious. Every E3, there is an influx of traffic on these websites. Traffic-records are broken for that time of year during the event. Hence, this move could affect these websites if a company such as EA stops attending. Advertisers have been convinced they should be connected to this event, because of its enormity.

If the advertisers decide to spend less, E3 will suffer as well.

Less dramatically, however, the press websites could adapt swiftly by sending their staff to attend several events. They would still get full coverage, only with their man-power dispersed among several locations. EA, on the other hand, will now have direct contact with their consumers, which used to be the journalist’s job. EA Play will kick off with an hour-long stream beforehand to get the gears moving, but also to incorporate everyone at home, who wish to watch the event from the comfort of their couch.

We could see more companies find more direct – and less expensive – conduits to their consumers in a variety of ways.

Nintendo has Nintendo Direct, which is a monthly taped stream of upcoming content. Activision will do it with Sony. EA now has their very first EA Play.  The decision made by EA could be a harbinger for good things to come. They may have looked at what Bethesda did with Fallout 4: no preview events were held. They did not market their product months and months before it came out.  Yet they created a mega-hit with Fallout 4 selling 12 million on its launch day. This new move may imply that EA wants to cut out the game press entirely. After all, why allow these sites to write about their games, when their website comment sections are filled with negativity towards the product. Instead have streamers play their products. As you can tell, there is a lot to read into concerning EA’s decision. Others might make the same move, rendering E3 irrelevant in the future.

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