E3 has always been a big deal for people who work in games. It's where the new stuff gets revealed and the journalists who cover it get to go hands-on with dozens of games. In June, for the first time, the show's organizers are selling tickets so that the public can attend the show.
"The decision to open our doors to 15,000 fans was a strategic decision," says Rich Taylor, senior VP of communications for the Entertainment Software Association which owns and runs E3.
Tickets will be a hefty $250 (or $150 if you can grab an early bird special) and 15,000 tickets will go on sale on February 13. That will get you onto the show floor – which is a sea of booths and demo stations competing for attention – and panel discussions. The Game Awards founder (and Hideo Kojima's BFF) Geoff Keighley will be providing programming for gamer attendees, like developer interviews.
What's not clear just yet is how the Entertainment Software Association will make sure that the hefty ticket cost feels like money well spent. Even for the press and industry attendees, E3 usually involves careful planning to navigate long and time-consuming lines for the biggest titles. It's fine if it's your job to be there, but less so if you're the one paying.
"Our exhibitors are thrilled at the opportunity to connect directly with gamers. This announcement was in the works for several months now and appropriate exhibitor planning took place," says Taylor. "We will also have a great conference panels with leading video game figures so fans can hear from industry luminaries. All these activities are designed to encourage multiple participation and interaction points throughout E3."
For comparison, single-day badges for PAX East this year cost $52.50, and it's a three day event. A four day badge for San Diego Comic-con last year was $205.
"Comic-Con and PAX are great events. We each have a role and we're supportive of those shows," says Taylor. "However, E3 has a reputation around the world as the place where video game hardware and software launches happen. Last year, E3 generated more than 65 billion media impressions around the globe. That doesn’t happen accidentally and it’s a testament to E3’s strength, its connection to the fans, and the event’s position in the industry."
We also asked the ESA how they settled on the $250 price point, and it sounds as if the game publishers were part of the decision-making process.
"Our members and key exhibitors helped determined the price points and $249 for a three-day pass is an incredible deal. We’re going to have more than 200 exhibitors — leading companies from around the world — showcasing never-before-seen video games. Couple that experience with an opportunity to listen to leading video game industry figures at E3’s panel sessions and we think these tickets will go quickly."
There were signs that the ESA wanted to involve gamers in E3 last year. It set up E3 Live, a free event, outside the LA Convention Center. Publisher EA (makers of Mass Effect and FIFA) totally skipped the show last year, instead setting up its own public-focused event, EA Play, just outside of E3's doors. All the major showcase events, where companies like Sony and Microsoft make their big announcements, are also all livestreamed straight to the public from LA. In short, this seems like the next logical step for E3. It'll be interesting to see how the show transitions from am industry conference to a fan destination.
E3 2017 will take place at the LA Convention Centre from June 13-15.