Why Geoff Keighley skipping E3 2020 is important

Industry host, producer, and the Ludens Fan himself Geoff Keighley announced today that would be not attending E3 in addition to not producing or hosting his annual E3 Coliseum livestream. Sony officially dropped out of the show once again last month and while that is also a big deal, Keighley’s refusal to attend is more symbolic and damns the show in a different way than any one publisher’s absence.

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Keighley has become one of the main faces of the industry much like how E3 has been the leading expo for the industry for the past 25 years. His annual gaming awards show has increasingly buoyed the video game industry and pushed it to a wider audience that has grown dramatically over the years. While it may have started as a bunch of out-of-place celebrities awarding trophies to games they’ve never heard of, it’s matured into a show that celebrates both the past, present, and future of the medium. When combined with Keighley’s hosting duties and insightful behind-the-scenes videos, it’s clear how he’s trying to honor and expand the horizons of the industry he’s spent so much of his life on.

Conceptually, E3 is similar with its approach to the industry. The show grew out of its CES roots and blossomed into a bigger show meant to parade the medium to retailers before transforming into something more focused on consumers and the titles they love in an all-out blitz of information, trailers, and gameplay demos. It’s a central event where the hardcore can rally around the Final Fantasy 7 Remake reveal trailer in addition to those who don’t pay attention to video games as closely. E3 is big enough to gather eyes on the industry as a whole and make gaming feel important.

There’s an odd connection between the two entities as Keighley is more of a walking embodiment of the ambassador-like spirit of E3. At least, that was the connection they shared and is why the split is important as it signals E3 getting away from itself either by dying, changing, or both. Keighley even said he is taking a “wait-and-see approach” with the expo as it has promised to change and pivot more to influencers and “high profile celebrity activations.”

“High profile celebrity activations” is a garbled, PR-laced phrase that should give anyone pause especially when paired with the equally nauseating “exclusive/appointment only activations for select attendees who will create buzz and FOMO.” Creating FOMO isn’t how E3 should advance and Keighley knew that and hinted at that during one of his many statements following his announcements.

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Why Geoff Keighley leaving E3 is important

These sorts of shows should spread to the people at home, too, and pull everyone in and not “create FOMO.” Keighley has attempted to pull everyone in with The Game Awards, as players can not only buy the nominated games during the annual Game Awards Sale, but they can also play some demos of upcoming titles themselves and watch the show in an ever-growing variety of ways. It’s a small step but noteworthy in how it includes those at home instead of trying to make them feel like they are chumps for staying in. This approach is more thoughtful than getting a bunch of celebrities to pose for selfies outside of Ubisoft’s booth.

“This is just my take, but I think E3 needs to be more digital, global and inclusive in its approach to connecting gamers and celebrating the industry,” he told GamesIndustry.biz. “It’s not really about who buys a booth on the show floor. Anyone who participated in The Game Festival on Steam around The Game Awards probably has a pretty good sense of my vision for how we bring the world together around games.”

Keighley, by being a player himself and throwing big shows, probably has some insight on how these shows should push forward in this new age. He has the numbers to show for it, too, given the growth of The Game Awards. And that growth, when put against the struggles of the ESA and E3, make one party seem a little more aware of the situation and demonstrates that they have their finger on the pulse. He also said he didn’t “feel comfortable participating,” which is incredibly reasonable and wants to see how it’ll all pan out is also just sound because of the questionable route the show seems to be taking.

It’s hard to tell if E3 is dying or just changing because there is proper evidence for both. Although regardless of the actual answer, Keighley is somewhat of a canary in the coal mine in a different way than any publisher, given what he knows, what he represents, and his success carving his own path. His passion for the players, developers, and industry as a whole usually means he knows how to present and advocate the industry in a way that makes sense for the current time. E3 used to be like that, which is why the two got along for so long and probably why he attended E3 for 25 years. But now that seems to have changed and if Keighley smells gas, it would be wise for us to stop and take a whiff as well.

[Image Credit: gameslice/YouTube]