Opinion: EA’s Annual Press Conferences at E3 Were Great and It’s a Shame There Won’t be One This Year
EA's last few press events at EA Play have been pretty awful, but that's what makes them so great.
Say what you want, but I love EA’s press conferences that kick off the E3 festivities every year. Is it typically boring? Yes. Is it awkward? Almost always. And is there ever any real substantial news to be revealed about upcoming games? Not really. Objectively, most of the conferences that EA has held over the past few years have been largely terrible, but that’s precisely why I love them.
The past three years, in particular, have been some of my favorite press conferences I have ever seen EA put on. Ever since the publisher announced back in 2016 that it would be forgoing attending E3 proper and would instead be holding its own EA Play events around the same time as the Los Angeles-based convention, things have really started to go off the rails.
2016’s press conference itself from EA was actually okay. EA showed up ready to show off DICE’s Battlefield 1 as their centerpiece of the show and the game looked great. Titanfall 2, while no one actually ended up buying it, was also shown off in greater detail during the event before releasing later that year. 2016 was actually the last pretty decent show EA put on during E3 week. It probably helped that Peter Moore was still with the company too at this time — I’ve always liked that guy.
While EA’s 2016 conference went well for the most part, it wasn’t without its own disaster. After the show ended, EA continued streaming to show off more of Battlefield 1 and in the process invited a bunch of celebrities to do some pre-gaming interviews before getting hands-on with the title. A litany of celebrities who looked like they totally didn’t want to be at EA Play were then forced to do interviews live on stream talking about how “excited” they were for Battlefield 1.
While each conversation that was had was pretty funny in its own right, the biggest highlight likely came when actor Jamie Foxx said, “Alright we gonna go find Wiz Khalifa and make this day go a little smooth.” You should be able to fill in the blanks there to know what he’s referring to. Footage from the event later on also showed Snoop Dogg playing BF1 with a joint in his mouth which is pretty on brand. All in all, it was a total mess of a stream but I couldn’t stop laughing the whole time I watched it.
While E3 2017’s showing from EA didn’t have anything as terrible as celebrities pretending to be ecstatic about video games, there were a whole lot of cringey moments throughout. I was actually in the audience for this showing and boy oh boy was it awkward at times. My favorite moment of EA’s 2017 conference to this day is still when Jesse Wellens, a YouTuber who I had never heard of in my life until EA Play totally botched his introduction of Need for Speed: Payback.
Watching this moment transpire across the room in real time was kind of surreal. It’s rare that you get to witness a meme being born in front of your eyes. Being there in the flesh to see Wellens stumble all over his words, something I knew that would immediately light up the Internet at that time, was something to behold.
EA also endcapped their E3 2017 press conference by forcing everyone to watch nearly 30 minutes of Star Wars Battlefront II while more content creators like Wellens shoutcasted the entire match that was playing out. This was really bad! While you could easily have just turned the stream off if you were watching from home, myself and everyone else in the room at that time were trapped with nowhere to go. I’d like to think that listening to all that shoutcasting somehow built up my resolve, though.
And who could forget EA Play in 2018? Easily the worst presentation of the three I’ve mentioned in this piece, EA came in ready to show off more of Battlefield V, Anthem, and their annual sports titles — that was about it. The only major surprise of the show came when Respawn’s Vince Zampella announced a new Star Wars game but did so in the most questionable way possible.
Simply sitting in a chair amongst the rest of the audience, Zampella formally announced that Respawn’s long-talked-about project was Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and that it would be taking place in between Episodes III and IV of the film saga. Outside of this and a Holiday 2019 release window, Zampella had nothing else to show about the game other than the details from his own mouth.
In a time where EA was still trying to recover from the messy release of Star Wars Battlefront II, it made sense for them to try to win fans back by telling them what they could look forward to next from the publisher in the realm of Star Wars, but the manner in which the reveal took place seemed like it all was planned merely 10 minutes before the show started. To this day, I think it’s one of the strangest game announcements I have ever seen.
I also can’t mention 2018’s show without also briefly talking about the fact that Command & Conquer: Rivals likely took up one of the largest portions of the press conference. To dedicate such a long period of time to what seemed to be a mere footnote in EA’s larger catalog was surprising, to say the least. I’ll never forget myself and fellow DualShockers writer Michael Ruiz watching the demo for Command & Conquer: Rivals live at the event and laughing to ourselves as we saw how long the whole thing dragged on.
Despite all the awkwardness that I have come to love from EA’s E3 showings over the years though, I do have to say that there were some genuine moments of heart in their presentations that I appreciated. Seeing smaller developers like Unravel’s Martin Sahlin in 2015 or Sea of Solitude’s Cornelia Geppert last year revealing their projects on such a large stage only to be overcome by emotion in the process was heartwarming.
In a time where companies have started to get these press events down to a science, I enjoyed seeing EA continue to struggle with the format and presentation of its own shows. Even though EA Play will once again be taking place prior to E3 2019, the fact that there won’t be a press conference to start everything off this year makes me sad. Hopefully, EA will bring back the press conference format in 2020 because I need my annual dose of moments like the ones I’ve outlined in this piece. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to hope that some new memes are born elsewhere at E3 this coming June.