E3 2019: What can we learn?

Tom Mellor, an Account Manager on Fuse’s gaming team, gives his view on the key takeaways from this year’s E3 Expo.

Another year and another E3 has come and gone. The video game industry’s single biggest event arrives under a swathe of hype, expectation and build-up and departs leaving an excess of news, announcements and excitement in its wake. Now the dust has settled, Fuse’s gaming team has dug through the debris to unearth their most interesting learnings from E3 2019.

  1. Cloud gaming is coming whether we’re ready or not

If we didn’t know it already, E3 2019 as good as cemented that cloud gaming will be a staple of our experiences as we move into the next console generation. Business models will be built around it, some products, like Google Stadia, will be totally dedicated to it and we’ll just need to hope that the infrastructure across these brands’ retail markets can handle it.

E3 revealed that a dramatic rise in subscription services is on the horizon and, although physical discs will never disappear, gaming seems to be moving the same way as film and music has with Netflix and Spotify, to digital as the norm. Couple that with publisher-owned subscription services such as Uplay+ and EA Access, alongside pre-existing platforms Xbox Live, Playstation Now, Playstation Plus and Nintendo Online and the battle for consumers’ wallets will take on a new form.

For Google Stadia itself, it’s digital-only streaming approach discussed at E3 is exciting, but a risk in the current landscape. With large regions of the US unable to support simple online gaming due to poor broadband infrastructure, work is needed in other areas before we’re truly ready for the future Google is looking to facilitate.

  1. Twitch is evolving beyond traditional content creation

In recent years Twitch has taken steps beyond its roots as a content platform. Whilst that remains the crux of its business with over 44 billion minutes watched a month by 140 million active users, it is now becoming more and more a staple marketing platform for the industry. Notable recent cases include Respawn Entertainment’s partnership with Twitch’s biggest streamers for the launch of Apex Legends, which helped the game reach 10 million players in 72 hours, and the unveiling of the new and highly anticipated Death Stranding trailer.

Now for E3, Twitch added several new features that handed viewers of its stream more control over their experience. The first guided consumers to the pre-order pages for newly-announced games, a simple mechanic that reduces barriers to purchase. The second switched up chat rooms, allowing fans to ask developers and publishers questions about their new titles in real time. The final addition facilitates co-streaming, the ability for popular streamers to host Twitch’s E3 broadcast on their own channel whilst commentating over it, greatly expanding its reach. Twitch will always be (for the time being at least) the premier place to consume video content, but it will be fascinating to see how its capabilities and offering as a marketing tool develops as the years progress.

  1. The Hollywood Influx – is gaming going mainstream?

The video game industry is no stranger to landing huge Hollywood talent in its titles; the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Gary Oldman and Kit Harrington have all dipped their toes, but this year’s E3 seems to show this is not just a fad. Marvel alumni, Mads Mikkelsen, was already confirmed for one of the PS4’s last big platform exclusives, Death Stranding, but he has now been joined by Bond girl, Lea Seydoux, in the same title. Wolf of Wall Street and Walking Dead star, Jon Bernthal, is the face of Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint and, in the biggest surprise of all, Keanu Reeves was revealed in many people’s Game of Show, Cyberpunk 2077.

But what does this influx of talent mean for the video game industry? Never lacking in credibility within its own circles, video gaming is arguably viewed differently from the other, more accepted entertainment mediums. This continued prevalence of recognisable and popular talent within games could help sway the opinions of naysayers either unfamiliar with the space or unwilling to view it as a story-telling medium on a par with its film and television counterparts. We anticipate that this strategy will bring in new players to the space over time.

  1. Publishers are human and learning from mistakes

At E3 2012, Ubisoft announced its brand new, Triple-A IP, Watchdogs, in front of a packed auditorium. The publisher showcased a visually stunning game that had audiences waiting with baited breath for its release until, fast-forward two years to its launch, the game was met with heavy criticism as players noticed a considerable downgrade in its presentation and capabilities.

It’s a controversy that is still talked about today and, although the reputation of the Watchdogs IP and Ubisoft has since recovered considerably, it raised an interesting debate of excitement vs. expectation.

The role of E3 announcements or gameplay showcases, is to get consumers excited for the title. However, industry marketers now recognise the importance of showcasing an accurate representation of what the finished product will resemble. Transparency, honesty and communication are now top considerations when making that all important reveal, as made evident at this year’s E3 where Ubisoft returned to present Watchdogs: Legion, upgrade free, to great applause.

  1. Is E3 as we know it changing?

One of the biggest talking points before E3 had even begun was the announcement that Sony would not be at the show for the first time in 24 years. Whilst this let Microsoft and Nintendo steal the spotlight, the fact that a heavyweight like Sony skipped gaming’s biggest event raises questions about what role the show will play moving forwards.

E3 will never not be relevant, it’s important to state that now, but what form that relevancy will take remains to be seen. Will it continue to be a major event used for announcements of the latest hardware and titles? Or will it evolve in line with its European counterpart, Gamescom, an event used more to give fans and media hands-on time with upcoming releases, rather than a place to make the headlines? With Sony relying increasingly on its owned event, State of Play, to make its biggest announcements and the other major hardware providers moving this direction as well (Nintendo has Nintendo Direct), we could see a time when the big three abandon E3 entirely, choosing to own the spotlight at a time that suits them, free from the competition for attention and engagement that comes during E3 week.