Summer Game Fest and the surrounding events have given a taste of what the future of gaming announcements will look like. There was a time when E3 was the centre of everything gaming, both news and announcements. Since the mid-90s, E3 has been the tent pole that many publishers and studios structure their year. With thousands of journalists descending on Los Angeles, it was the place you needed to be featured at to be known or make an impact with the gaming audience. This year, all of that changed.
Taking over the LA Convention Center, E3 brought publishers from across the globe to one place, giving the public a chance to get a glimpse of what could be in the months and years to come. With thousands of people eager to see countless different products and games displayed, it was an overload of information that flooded gaming sites for weeks. Even as companies like Nintendo, Activision, Microsoft and Sony moved to do things off site the event managed to maintain a stranglehold of the attention, even if it could not fill all the floor space, at least until the pandemic happened.
When people could no longer travel, and major events like E3 had to cancel, the landscape of gaming and coverage changed. With services like Twitch, YouTube and Discord giving new ways to show games to fans and journalists, E3 seemed even less relevant to the future of gaming. While it was a focal point for the year, the massive show where brands spent hundreds of thousands if not millions just to show off a few titles made much less sense.
This is a digital age, one that rewards innovation, so it only makes sense something needed to fill the void left by the behemoth of E3. Geoff Keighley, known for countless announcements, live streams, The Game Awards and even E3 Judges week, found a balance that connects gamers, journalists and publishers in a way that makes sense.
Working with iam8bit, Summer Game Fest and Summer Game Fest Play Days brings the excitement of the announcements—all swirling around the month of June—into a combination of a digital and physical event that makes real sense for everyone involved. While E3 used to bring countless writers from across the globe, Play Days is a much more manageable number, giving select press a chance to demo a range of offerings and announcements, with the digital showcase working to give the eager gaming public a taste of what is coming down the pipe.
“I believe what SGF and iam8bit did was the best June gaming event to happen in Los Angeles in years.” Stated Games Editor at Bleeding Cool, Gavin Sheehan when asked about the event. “ When you work conventions as media, press, or a creator, it’s a lot of running around to see things and no time to breathe with a lot of frustrations. This was a change we all needed, and it was awesome to do something that accomplished the same stuff without most of the hassles we usually deal with.”
It does not end there though, with a new focal point, showcases like the summer PlayStation State of Play, Xbox FanFest and Showcase, along with the many others tied directly to Summer Game Fest could all work to bring the same level of excitement. What is different, is the event does so while keeping the focus on the games, developers and the community, over the opulent spectacle that does nothing for the core of game development.
“With it being only the first year, Summer Game Fest is a much smaller affair…”
With it being only the first year, Summer Game Fest is a much smaller affair, offering only a handful of titles directly playable to the press. The intimate atmosphere gives a chance to showcase smaller titles right alongside the AAA heavy hitters that often steal the limelight. Keighley and his team nailed what is important about gaming, giving developers a soapbox to talk about the titles they put the blood, sweat and tears into, and the low-key setting ensures they don’t get drowned out by the noise.
“It’s rad to be in the same place as other people who play games the same way I do, and I appreciated the opportunity to rub shoulders with other writers and critics after our demos and talk out our feelings,” explained Tech Culture Editor for Ars Technica, Sam Machkovech, when asked what SGF means for the industry.
“That was easy to do at something like SGF, which was more intimate than E3—but was also more open and diverse than Geoff Keighley’s old ‘judges week’ events. I’d like to see SGF 2023 perhaps pop up in a few cities over a few weeks, so that each event can keep attendance down and maintain some kind of intimacy, coziness, and shorter lines to try out new games. I won’t miss the most bloated parts of E3 of old, that’s for sure.”
Stepping into a room with other journalists and creators after nearly two years away was a bit of a shock. It is crazy to see old faces again, or some that you have only seen digitally, finally getting a chance to catch up and hear what their corner of the world is looking at and excited about. The small setting also lets the games be the focus, with less fear about what a large gathering could mean, all good things when you want to showcase games and actually have them seen.
Even stepping past the direct Summer Game Fest event and into what Xbox and Sony had in store, this mindset seemed prevalent throughout the showcases and streams. The Xbox FanFest, one of the bigger events taking place during the hectic month of June, managed to keep things relatively small, only selecting a limited number of guests, and making a showcase that is largely digital, giving everyone, even people sitting at home a taste of what to be excited about.
“Summer Game Fest and other separate events like the Xbox & Bethesda Showcase, PlayStation State of Play and Day of the Devs made all the gaming announcements throughout the summer more manageable,” Executive Editor, Dayna Eileen explained after attending Summer Game Fest: Play Days. “Being broken up into different days or weeks gives fans—and journalists—the chance to digest what they’ve seen rather than have it all thrown at them at once.”
“The ESA tried to make E3 everything for everyone.”
The ESA tried to make E3 everything for everyone. It was a place for press, publishers, and business meetings, and in recent years, select the public willing to pay. It was a shock to the system, one that could be both exciting and overwhelming, and it was something that felt like it had lost a lot of the focus that made it relevant. With the ability to reach directly to the fans on any number of platforms, it no longer makes much sense as the event it was.
Walking through the halls, with the constant stress of missing appointments due to any number of reasons, is never enjoyable. The spectacle is something that is amazing to watch and see but hard to work in, and Summer Game Fest managed to find a balance, giving enough leeway to let everything be seen, while not pushing the writers you love to read to their breaking point.
Even for newcomers to the industry, this new format just makes sense, as Dayna explains, “E3 is massive, and I can’t imagine the chaos it must be with fans and journalists in attendance. This new format may not be the Woodstock of gaming, but I certainly believe it makes for more comprehensive coverage overall.”
Combined with The Game Awards, along with the many other showcases throughout the year, Summer Game Fest is a glimpse into the future of game announcements and coverage. A mix of public and private events that put the games, the developers and the fans as the focus, with everything else coming second. Geoff Keighley has shown what is possible through hard work, countless meetings and months of planning, and it paid off. E3 may never return as it once did, but if this latest showcase has shown, gaming is in good hands, and the future is very bright indeed.