ESA attempts to revitalize E3 with public side event

As expected, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is starting to experiment with letting the ordinary public into its industry-only games expo — sort of. While the main Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) occupying the Los Angeles Convention Center (pictured above) will remain closed to professionals and press, a new side event set across the street will allow a fixed number of ticket-holding “consumers” to experience a sliver of the aggressive brand marketing for which E3’s show floor is known.

They’re calling it E3 Live, in honor of its location LA Live, a collection of restaurants and entertainment venues set up adjacent to the convention center. The tickets, which are free, are already listed as “sold out” on E3 Live’s website. Attendance is expected at 20,000 and participating game (and games-adjacent) companies include Ubisoft, Twitch, Oculus, and Frito-Lay (???). 

When asked about a difference in tone and content for this public-facing event, versus the industry-only expo floor, ESA vice president of media relations Dan Hewitt declined to elaborate. Asked about safety and crowd-control for the event — given that LA Live is usually filled with public foot traffic — Hewitt said only that the area will be “controlled” and that E3 Live attendees must have tickets.

E3 Live will give gamers the chance to test-drive exciting games, interact with some of their favorite developers, and be among the first in the world to enjoy groundbreaking game experiences,” ESA president Michael Gallagher is quoted as saying in the press release. I’ve read and re-read this thing and this is as close as the ESA gets to explicating the purpose of the event in its own words. “For fans of videogames, this will be an event like no other.”

If I seem skeptical, it’s only because ESA’s messaging on this front has not made clear how this is intended to prop up E3, either financially or through public perception. E3 Live is posed as the first of a new annual event, however, so if the first is a success it will be a welcomed new chapter in E3’s legacy, as the event claws for relevancy amidst waning support from publishers.

E3 Live kicks off on Tuesday, June 14th and will run concurrent with E3. An orchestral performance of Pokemon music will accompany the opening of the event. Unlike E3 Live, that one still has some tickets available.