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Summer Game Fest Isn’t E3 – And That’s Okay

The Summer Game Fest has come and gone to mark the semi-official start of the season’s Not-E3 celebrations. And yet this year, more than ever, we can see that it’s not the E3 replacement perhaps everybody wants it to be. That should be okay.


That is to say, there a place for a smaller “hyped” event that can explore a variety of smaller games alongside a few bigger announcements. And while that might not seem like a controversial opinion, for some it is. Yet it’s something we all have to get used to and quickly. The Summer Game Fest is a reflection of the current state of game development. Those expecting those huge events of ten years ago where it was a solid 90 minutes of AAA unveils are going to get very disappointed very quickly.

This isn’t an excuse article. There are certainly issues with the format, expectation and marketing of these kinds of events that lead to some of the disappointment. There are issues with the way the shows are presented that make them less interesting than they could be, regardless of what is shown. I’m certainly not saying you have to enjoy or appreciate them. Please don’t put up and shut up.

The issue is that fan expectations are not realistic. It wasn’t that long ago that E3 presented a solid week of gaming news, with three days of that being major presentations by almost every big company in the industry. It is sad to talk about this in the past tense. We’d have Xbox and PlayStation, EA, Ubisoft, Nintendo… It was a golden weekend of cringe, memes and major gaming news. Of course, we were as disappointed each year as we are now. It’s the internet. That’s what happens.

Accepting the Summer Game Fest

Accepting that those days are never going to be back, we have to look at how we want our games marketing to be. One thing is certain: it’s currently pretty poor. It doesn’t have to be, but it is.

Everything has to be hyped to 11. Watching for mainstream games ends up feeling tiring as a result. There are examples of this from Summer Games Fest. There’s bound to be some from the Xbox show soon too. Sometimes a game is what it is, and no amount of anime cutscenes, extremely selectively cut trailers or celebrity cameos is going to make it any different.

And so here is my proposal. Instead of following this “hype to 11 or sell three copies” style of marketing, we take a step back. Maybe the Summer Game Fest really can be that place where we can enjoy AAA games on the level of Sonic and Alan Wake DLC. It can showcase cool indies that otherwise wouldn’t get a look in. Perhaps that isn’t a bad thing.

You can’t change what excites people. The next Grand Theft Auto trailer will demolish the viewing numbers of anything in the Summer Game Fest. But accepting that not every game is Grand Theft Auto shouldn’t be too tough, right?



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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott