E3 has always been seen as a time of surprises and massive announcements, with the major developers and publishers going into stealth mode during the couple of months before the show, leaving everyone holding their breath and wondering what will be announced.
This year we saw the culmination of a trend of which a few hints were visible last year and in 2013. Publishers have already pulled out the big guns, and they’re firing shots that in the past would definitely have been considered of E3 caliber.
The latest examples have been the reveal of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for PS4 by Sony, and Fallout 4 by Bethesda, but there have been plenty in the past couple of months, from pretty much every area of the industry.
Bethesda’s Fallout reveal is especially peculiar since this year the publisher is going to have a press conference at E3, and firing one of its biggest rounds two weeks before seems quite strange at first sight.
One of the few big names that seem to be trying to “keep it in its pants” is Microsoft, even if accidents happen, especially considering today’s Forza Motorsport 6’s leak.
So, what gives? What is pushing some of the biggest publishers to reveal so many games before the climatic press conferences? It could be a mix of causes, and they probably vary depending on who we’re talking about.
The simplest possibility is that they have so much in store that firing a few shots before E3 doesn’t really damage their impact at the show. This is probably a factor for Sony, that won’t have a press briefing at Gamescom.
This means that they don’t have to hold back content for a reveal less than two months after. Paris Gamess Week in October is still far away, and the house of PlayStation has more time to build up new announcements for then, without needing to “save” too much for later. This probably allows them to safely drop a couple of “bombs” before E3, which has also the effect to build up some hype.
Another probable factor is that E3 has become more and more crowded. Especially with the extreme competition between Microsoft and Sony created by this heated generation. The big reveals tend to rain, so much that even more publishers have decided to launch their own press conferences on top of the traditional ones by Sony, Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft.
In this crowded space, it makes sense for some of the games to be revealed before E3, in order to grant them with the proper space and attention, instead of having them sunk among the maelstrom of announcements and reveals.
This enables publishers to retain as much control possible on the unveiling announcement, dropping it in semi-ideal marketing conditions.
Thirdly, especially in the past few years, there have been more and more “misfires,” with unintended reveals happened due to leaks, insiders, websites published too early and similar situations, that normally tend to throw the whole marketing plan into the recycle bin. Bloodborne‘s leak last year is a good example.
The closer we get to E3, the more external parties have to be made aware of what’s going to happen, multiplying the chances of a leak.
It’s not unlikely that publishers have learned that lesson, and are revealing early those games that have a high chance to be leaked one way or another, or have already been partially leaked, before it’s too late. This allows them to still unveil their new titles on their own terms, without risking to see a third party spill the beans all over the place.
Ultimately, though, I wouldn’t expect a thin E3 this year, despite the fact that quite a few warning shots have been fired before June 15th. As a matter of fact, I expect more content than ever, and that’s probably why we’re seeing so much now, before the curtain raises.
The heavy howitzers will roar. Oh yeah, they will.