Gaming Needs a Second Showcase Event
Having taken some time to think about it, while the awards portion of VGX might be unsalvageable without a major overhaul, the concept, in its current form, still has some merit. The emphasis the former Video Game Awards put on unveiling new games and new game footage and trailers were a major draw for gamers.
Inadvertently, the format of the VGAs/VGX shows that there is demand for more big showcase events that publishers and developers can use to show off their next big thing to an audience always willing to get excited over the next great game.
Right now, the video games industry has one showcase event. That’s the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as it’s commonly known, which is held early in June. There are few more gameplay reveals and new trailers shown at Gamescom in late August but that’s it for big industry events. If you don’t get news out there, you’re at the mercy of the news cycle being kind to you so you can get more buzz for your game because there’s no big industry event again until March’s Game Developers Conference and that isn’t geared to the big reveals since E3 is less than three months after that.
Whether you like the show or not, the previously televised VGX awards show was one of the few events outside of E3 that captured the attention of many gamers. That’s why so many companies used it to promote their games. If a good number of people interested in games are watching it, be it gamers or the press, it’s a good place to promote their games.
The problem is that VGX is supposed to be an awards show. All the focus on people promoting new games (and new movies, in the case of celebrities) takes away from the actual awards. There’s nothing wrong with having a special surprise during the awards show but the existence of VGX has become solely about the reveals.
I think that we’ve reached the point where it’s clear that one major industry event that’s built around revealing the latest and greatest in gaming isn’t enough. The content of VGX makes it clear that we need a fall or winter showcase event for gaming. Whether the industry is willing to admit it or not, what they bring to VGX shows that they want another signature event to promote their wares.
Adding a second major (notice how I don’t say big because I’m interesting in importance rather than scale) showcase for the industry gives people an E3-esque focus point for news announcements. If everyone is focusing on this one event, the news will get out rather than risk slipping through the cracks. The same happened with the trailers at VGX because everyone new that news would happen on that so-called awards show. People pay attention to it because they know they’ll see something interesting there, even if they don’t particularly care about the rest of the show.
However, with the industry crying poor, it can’t be an E3 scale mega event. We should be looking at something a little smaller in scale, along the lines of a PAX East in that it’s in a smaller venue over only a weekend with a few keynotes and panels and far less money spent by the publishers. If you keep it in LA, like the VGX show usually is, it cuts down on travel costs for most of the developers, publishers and press. However, a winter video game convention should be more about the games and gamers rather than being about the press like E3 or promoting GameTrailers like VGX was recently accused of by an ex-Viacom employee on Reddit.
Adding a mini-E3 event in November or December gives the industry an event that everyone can focus on while allowing everyone to promote their own games for the holiday shopping season while simultaneously getting people excited about new games that are still months away from hitting the shelves. And by opening things to the public, it allows direct marketing to gamers which helps out in that regard too. Even though I think sales targets are set far too high, giving people hands-on time won’t hurt publishers in getting closer to those targets.
By moving to a smaller venue and still having E3 six months away, hopefully this will discourage companies from spending E3 sized budgets with expensive sets, celebrity appearances and extravagant floor displays. Generally, that’s not a worry at the likes of PAX, Gamescom and other smaller conventions. It’s generally isolated to E3 but if you add another big event in their backyards, there’s always the risk of companies spending more money than they should.
What this should accomplish is injecting some much-needed buzz and life into the industry, especially at retail, over the four months from December to March which covers Christmas and the big releases immediately preceding corporate fiscal year ends. And when gamers get excited about an event and games, as would likely happen with a new major show, everyone wins in the end.
So what does this do to VGX? Well, this should either force Keighley to actually make changes to the show rather than calling moving into Tabletop’s studio and losing the crowd a change or kill off VGX altogether. Either it becomes a proper awards show or completely loses its raison d’être. Survival of the fittest applies to awards shows too.