The Reality of the Video Game Showcase Season Post-E3

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I may have somewhat of a bias considering that it is my birthday month, but I think that June is the perfect month for what I have begun to refer to as the “showcase season” for video games. 

E3 pioneered the trend of video game companies coming together to share news on upcoming games and hardware in 1995 and continued to be the highlight of the year for many people until 2023 when it was announced that E3 would not return. The annual event brought us some of the most iconic moments in gaming including the first appearance by Reggie Fils-Aimé in 2004 as Nintendo of America’s new President where we heard the now infamous quote, “My name is Reggie, I’m about kicking ass, I’m about taking names, and we’re about making games.”

When it was made known that E3 would not be returning for the 2024 summer season, speculation ran wild as to how video game announcements and showcases would evolve going forward. Given his established background in hosting Summer Games Fest and The Video Game Awards, Geoff Keighley quickly became the center of discussions. 

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, video game developers and publishers have started to host their own individual events, most all of them live-streamed in some capacity. While that mentality certainly contributed to the eventual end of E3, it is what pushed Keighley to host his own events to bring companies back together and remember what made E3 so successful: the community-building aspect. Half of the enjoyment of these showcases comes from fans and industry veterans alike coming together to celebrate all things gaming-related, theorizing what could be announced, and reacting to those announcements as a group.

Considering how important the sense of camaraderie is to these showcases, it makes sense why virtually every video game company chooses to have some kind of appearance during June. After all, June is one of the few months when gaming’s largest demographic, students, have the most free time to pay attention to these announcements.

According to a 2022 publication from Statista, thirty-six percent of video game consumers are between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four, making up the highest percentile. Twenty-four percent are under the age of eighteen, making up the second-highest percentile. What do these groups have in common? June is typically the month when they have the most free time to play video games and pay attention to gaming news. Imagine that you are a young high school student during summer vacation: no homework, no classes, no responsibilities, only video games matter at that moment. With all of that free time, it would be a no-brainer to use some of that free time to watch these video game showcases and start up your holiday wishlist.

Using June as the time to announce upcoming releases has different benefits from a business perspective as well. Playing off of the notion that the main demographic of gaming has more availability to pay attention during that month, this opens up the potential for companies to emphasize preorder sales and capitalize on “shadow drop” releases: video games that are made available for sale in conjunction with an announcement.

Opening up preorders for upcoming games helps to gauge how much interest there is for them, and begin to generate revenue, before launch. Shadow-dropping games pushes consumers to pick up releases more impulsively due to the fear of missing out on the latest and greatest hits. Whichever approach a game may take, increasing sales numbers helps quarterly fiscal earnings stay as high as possible, showing shareholders that their investment was worthwhile and potentially bringing in new investors. I will save my thoughts on effective release scheduling for a future article, but the main point is that steady sales throughout the year looks better to the people in charge than having a single quarter with the vast majority of sales, assuming that there is year-over-year growth.

I will always reminisce about E3 with great fondness. There was something truly magical about the event bringing the industry together for a week every year. That said, there is a lot to be appreciated about companies hosting their own events during the showcase season. Trailers and gameplay sessions do not feel nearly as rushed as they do when they are part of a multi-company event. Developers have the opportunity to go into greater detail when talking about their games when they do not have to worry about being told to get off the stage for the next presenter to get set up, giving fans more information that could convince them to purchase the game. These individual events also allow for fans of specific platforms to focus on events that pertain to their interests as opposed to sitting through presentations for games that they do not have the hardware to play. 

For far too many reasons than can be explored here, the COVID-19 pandemic forever changed how the modern world works. In the case of video game showcases, I think that the changes have ultimately been for the better, regardless of how much I personally miss events such as E3. How do you feel about these developments in the video game industry? Do you think that these company-specific events are better or worse? Let me know and as always, game on friends!