For the first time ever the Electronics Software Association (ESA) is throwing open the doors and welcoming the public into the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3. On Monday, February 13, a limited number of tickets for E3 2017 will go on sale to the general public.
Like so many gamers, I looked at E3 as the mecca of gaming. Back in Australia, I’d read countless magazines after the show; even buying the expensive American ones just to see more of what went down. Years later I was a freelancer writing for one of those gaming magazines – writing game previews from E3 2013.
Nintendo’s booth at E3 2013
I still remember walking into the Los Angeles Convention Center for the first time and feeling like I had to pinch myself. I was here, in California, at E3, working for a magazine I’d been reading nearly all my life. And best of all, E3 didn’t let me down – it was amazing.
But that’s just me, and my experience as someone working at the show will be very different to someone going in as a general admission ticket holder. So I’m going to try and answer this simple question – with tickets costing as much as $250 is it worth paying to go to E3 2017?
Where: Los Angeles Convention Center – Los Angeles, California
When: June 13-15 2017
Availability: 15,000 tickets
Cost: $150 for the first 1,000, $250 for the remaining 14,000
On sale: Monday, February 13 at 12 pm (US Eastern Standard Time)
1. IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT
Deciding whether or not you should pay to go to E3 is a hard question to answer, but I’m going to do my best. There’s a lot of pros and cons to weigh up, but I can tell you that every time the show ends I find myself wishing this was what my job was like every day1. E3 is also a lot of work for everyone with actual business to do at the show, but it’s also a lot of fun.
First of all, go in knowing that for over 20 years E3 was an industry-only event and not for the general public. That means that unless you have industry contacts you’ll end up waiting in a lot of lines – and I mean a lot of lines. That said, you when you get to the front of the line you’ll be playing the latest games months or even years before anyone else. You may even end up seeing a game that never gets released at all.
Take-Two Interactive’s booth at E3 2016
Knowing what I know now after going to four E3s I can honestly tell you this – if I wasn’t working in the media, hadn’t been before, and I lived in Los Angeles I’d buy a ticket for sure. But, if I lived further away than that, I’d lean towards not going. Still feel conflicted? Well, to help you decide here’s a list of things you should know about the show before you.
2. THE WAITING GAME
If there’s one thing you absolutely must know about before going to E3, it’s you must be prepared for insanely long lines. For example, arguably the biggest game of E3 2016 that everyone wanted to see was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Wii U. This was thanks in no small part to Nintendo filling their massive booth with Wii U kiosks, huge Breath of the Wild statues and impressive archways that looked like the ruins of the Temple of Time. It was easily one of the most impressive booths at the show – and it was incredibly popular.
To see a trailer of Breath of the Wild, which was shown in a Zelda themed cave that would open up and let you inside the booth, you had to wait in a line that lasted anywhere from three to five hours. Worse yet, if you wanted to play the game you had to line up as soon as the showroom doors opened at 10 am. By 11 am, if you weren’t in line it was too late, and if you did make it, you’d be waiting for up to seven hours to play Breath of the Wild for 40 minutes.
In contrast, being part of the media I was able to make an appointment with Nintendo and do everything listed above, including playing Breath of the Wild in Nintendo’s private media area, in about an hour and a half. I played the game, took the photos, chatted with the media relations people, and then ran to my next appointment.
Nintendo’s booth at E3 2016
Not every game has a wait time this bad, but nearly every game will have a line of at least a few hours. Back in 2014, I waited nearly two hours to play Battlefield Hardline, and that was in the media-only line. I heard everyone else had to wait over three hours.
What’s my point? If you’re going to E3 thinking you’ll be playing Mario Odyssey, Shenmue III or whatever the new Star Wars Battlefront game is, be prepared to wait. But then again, once that wait is over you’ll be one of the first people in the world to play that game, so take the time to pick which games you want to see.
Planning ahead is your best bet so make sure you check the E3 website before you go and print out an updated map of the show floor. Oh, and take your 3DS as there’s a ton of people to StreetPass with.
3. PRESS CONFERENCES ARE OFF-LIMITS
Press conferences are, as you may have guessed, for the press. There’s also a number of industry professionals there, such as developers and publishers, but generally speaking, they’re made for members of the media to watch sizzle reels of upcoming games. These events are actually separate to E3 and are run by the console makers and publishers, so the ESA can’t open them up to the public.
In previous years the press conferences have been locked-down events, and truthfully you probably won’t be getting into them. The one exception is Microsoft, who have been fairly open to letting fans into Xbox Media Briefing, but in very limited numbers and only through a pre-selection process.
Xbox Media Briefing 2015
There have been a few great ones over the years like Sony’s press conference last year in the Shrine Auditorium that featured a live orchestra. And then there’s Microsoft’s 2014 Xbox Media Briefing with the glowing wristbands that lit up in time with trailers. Even Bethesda went so far as to have an after-party with themed bars (including an Elder Scrolls tavern with free turkey legs) and a concert by Blink 182.
But the reality is, most of the time these press conferences are pretty run-of-the-mill affairs. They’re fun to go to if you ever get the chance, but otherwise just stay home and watch them online. You’ll get all of the information you need without having to pay for an Uber during surge pricing.
One thing you should know is there’s a number of parties in Downtown Los Angeles that happen around E3 that you may be able to get into. You’ll have to do some research closer to the date, usually on Twitter or Eventbrite, but if you look hard enough you’ll find them. Take this from a guy who managed to talk their way into the Saints Row 4 after party, complete with an open bar and a bag of free games.
4. MAYBE WAIT UNTIL 2018
This is just my prediction, but I think E3 2017 is going to be a litmus test for next year, so if you’re not sure about going this year, hold off. I’m basing this on a lot of assumptions I’ll admit, but E3 doesn’t have the lineage of PAX or Tokyo Games Show of being geared towards consumers.
West Hall, E3 2015
Basically, I think that this year they’re testing the waters and next year the ESA will come out of the gates swinging with more of the show open to the fans. Selling 15,000 tickets to the general public tells me that they’re not exactly sure how this all will go, so those taking the plunge will be their guinea pigs. But no matter what, I sincerely doubt E3 will ever go back to being an industry-only event, so if you don’t go in 2017 you’ll most likely be able to go in 2018. That’s not a promise of course, but it’s my prediction.
Plus there’s the whole $250 price tag, which is what the majority of people will be paying to go to the show. Think about that – $250 for the ticket, then add on the cost of a hotel, transport, food, the list goes on. Justifying those costs is easy of course, it’s E3 and it is an amazing experience, but you may end up paying a lot for a slim chance to play a few games.
5. NO WRONG ANSWER
As I said above, there is no wrong answer here. And I know how much it will sting for people who can’t afford to go and will feel like they’re missing out if they can’t make it. For those people, I’d tell you to make going to E3 a personal goal because that’s exactly what I did. If it’s important to you, eventually in years to come you’ll find a way.
But if you want a definitive answer – a yes or no type response – my answer to you is yes you should go to E3 2017. Buy a ticket, spend the money, and see it for yourself. But just go in with you eyes open knowing that it’s an industry event. And don’t get roped into buying a ticket above the market price should they end up on eBay. Paying $250 is already more than enough.
Los Angeles Convention Center South Hall, E3 2013
More than anything E3 is a yearly celebration of gaming that we all know about and get excited for. And to be there in person, even if you don’t get to skip the lines and miss some of the ‘behind the scenes’ action, is worth it. Because if E3 is as important to you and it was (and remains) to me – you should experience it at least once. And though I think they’ll allow the public in again next year, this is the first and only guaranteed year you can buy a ticket to E3 in the history of the show.
And hey, you never know, I may see you at the show. I’ll be the guy running down the hallway to next appointment, scribbling down notes and eating a Cliff Bar for lunch.
E3 2017 CHECKLIST
THINGS TO TAKE
- Water bottle: Do not rely on having easy access to water while on the show floor, especially if you’re in a long line.
- Hand sanitizer: You may be the cleanest person in the world, but trust not everyone else is.
- Camera: You will take a lot of photos, there’s now way around this. Just check that you have the memory card in the camera before you head out.
- USB Battery: Get a battery you can charge and carry with you as power outlets are few and far between
- Food: The food at the Los Angeles Convention Center is there as a last resort, take a sandwich or something with you.
- Get the E3 app: Every year the ESA put out an E3 app with a map in it. Get it and use it, it’ll save you a lot of time.
- Head to the little booths: IndieCade has a booth that usually has some smaller games to play with no line. I remember that year Capcom remade the Phoenix Wright courtroom with 3DS units at the booth and nobody playing them! Don’t underestimate a booth because of its size 😉
- Get to the Atlus booth: Every year there’s a bunch of companies giving away free stuff at the show. Atlus hand out free tote bags every year, so head there first and fill it up with all the freebies you collect throughout the day.
- Grab the free magazines: There’s an official show guide for every day of E3, you’ll see them being handed out at the show in the hallways. Grab one to find out what’s happening on the show.
- Know the halls: The South Hall has the big name publishers (Square Enix, Activision, etc). West Hall has the big hardware manufacturers (Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft). Do one hall per day, they stay the same throughout the show so don’t worry about missing out on stuff.
- Head to LA Live: Near the Los Angeles Convention Center, passed the Staples Center, there’s an outdoor plaza called LA Live. Every year there’s E3 related events going on here that are open to the public. Head there when you need to get some fresh air.