2009 was the first year I ever attended E3. At the time, I was surprised by the number of people at the show. You couldn’t walk anywhere without bumping shoulders with another person, making for quite the gamer spectacle.
Since then, every year it’s felt like the show has grown incrementally to house more exhibitors and media, bulking at a rate similar to the gaming industry itself. While this growth has been calculable, this year is a whole different story.
The number of people at E3 2017 is far less similar to something like PAX, and much more like Comic-Con, a shows that is commonly regarded as the king of geeky conventions. Lines to play games are several hours long, ordering at a food truck takes up a quarter of your afternoon, and getting around is like walking through a mud-ridden jungle.
This morning, after picking up our badges, our staff headed to the halls to find swarms of people unlike anything E3 has ever seen before. In particular, the lines to enter the South and West Halls expanded well beyond the original intended proportions of the Los Angeles Convention Center; the line at the South Hall in particular weaved in and out for thousands of feet, making its way outside, toward a major intersection, and then under a bridge that connects the two halls (which is probably in a different area code altogether).
It was quite a sight to behold, and to E3 veterans meant much more than just brief inconvenience. Many appointments were scheduled for 12:00pm, which is when the doors opened. Yet, many media in line would have to wait until at least 12:45pm before making their way inside.
There was such a flurry of anxiety that security had to begin pulling out media from the line to guide them into the convention center in fear that one of the core purposes of the show, games coverage, wouldn’t be compromised.
“Please arrive 10 minutes early”, said one of our appointments scheduled for 12:00PM. Yeah, that wasn’t happening.
It’s now 1:45, and there are still lines that are longer than anything I’ve personally witnessed at a gaming convention, made worse by the ESA’s enforcement of badges, which means that everyone who enters the halls has to have their badge visually inspected by a security guard at the gate.
There’s a good reason for this chaos: public passes. ESA decided to add 15,000 tickets to the total pool this year in order to make room for non-media people who want to attend. This was a move to grow E3 as an event, make it accessible to the average gamer, and probably most importantly, make money. While it’s a good thing for anyone interested in making E3 as big as possible, it has also negatively impacted the attendance experience.
In just a few moments I’ll be returning to the halls where I’ll be checking out Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood, Elite: Dangerous‘ upcoming patch, among other games. Hopefully things aren’t too crazy when I arrive. Even if not, I expect tomorrow morning to be yet another patience-testing experience.