Why E3 should be held every four years

Don Reisinger thinks E3 should stop its annual schedule and start being held every four years. Does his radical plan mean E3 could be saved?

E3 should be like the Olympics and presidential elections. That's right -- it shouldn't be a yearly show where press is ushered around San Francisco and made to listen to barely entertaining conferences from companies that like to massage their egos and try to show how compelling their products are. Instead, E3 should be the gaming event every four years that highlights the major developments in the gaming space and leaves the extra garbage to shows like the Tokyo Game Show or the Game Developers' Conference.

Now I know this may sound drastic and surely some of you are saying that I've lost it, but hear me out. On this week's TWiT, I first mentioned this theory to my fellow panelists, Leo Laporte, Veronica Belmont, and Major Nelson. And due to the immense response from the TWiT faithful, I felt I needed to expound on my theory a bit more and explain why E3, in its current state, is quickly becoming irrelevant and is in desperate need of a revival.

Unless it's a year where new consoles will be released or a major title will be announced, E3 is boring. How many times do we go to E3 hoping Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo will announce something major, only to find out that they want to talk about sales, revenue models, and a handful of games that don't matter nearly as much as they want us to believe? Lately, it has happened more times than we want to admit.

But for those years where new consoles are being announced, along with major new franchises or updates to big-time games, E3 is a spectacle that outshines all its competitors and makes for an extremely compelling week.

Unfortunately, those events are few and far between.

At the 2005 E3, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox 360, Sony unveiled the Playstation 3, and Nintendo showed off the GameBoy Micro and the Revolution (later renamed the Wii). In 2001, Nintendo made its first unveiling of the Gamecube and Microsoft made its first major showing with a full lineup of first-gen Xbox games. In 1997, Metal Gear Solid was first unveiled, along with a slew of major franchises, including Unreal and Half-Life

Do you see what I'm getting at here? Sure, some major game releases were made in other years not mentioned above and those three years weren't the only periods that made E3 special, but they follow a certain trend. Generally speaking, big stuff happens every four years and in-between, very little is revealed.

Part of that reason is because E3 is dominated by the big three: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. And when those three companies don't have anything major to announce, the show is (pretty much) a waste of time.

Because of that, we need to come to the realization that the big three only really have big things to announce every few years and generally, those announcements revolve around the announcement of new consoles, which, contrary to Sony's "10-year life cycle", generally hit store shelves every four to six years.

With that in mind, I don't see a reason for E3 to happen every year. If it stays on its current course, it'll continue to succumb to irrelevance and eventually, the press and everyone else will officially lose interest. And to make matters worse, it's being out-shined by GDC and TGS, which makes it look like the "extra" show in July.

But by changing gears and making it the biggest show in the video game industry every four years, E3 can suddenly become relevant again. It can go back to the big spectacle that it once was and make it clear to everyone that when it's time for E3, it's time for the big three and developers to totally blow you away with upcoming releases and consoles.

Now, granted, developers may need to change their cycles to coincide with this new scheme, but don't you think it'll happen? When Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo announce new consoles, every developer in the business wants to be at E3 because those are the conferences that get the most play in the media. And by spacing E3 out in such a way as to allow the first-parties to announce major console upgrades or new consoles altogether, it makes E3 the place to be every four years.

I realize this idea is radical and it runs directly opposite to the way things have always been done in the video game industry, but if you're a dying conference, don't you think it's time you think outside the box?

Holding a major E3 every four years means that the Tokyo Game Show can bear the burden of holding crappy shows every year and frees up E3 to be the biggest and best video game conference on the planet.

This scheme would also probably appeal to Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, which have consistently said that the return on investment from these major announcements simply isn't up-to-par and it doesn't make sense to spend all that money on something that doesn't bear any fruit.

E3 is, well, dead. But by changing the way things are done and moving to a time scheme that allows it to lick its wounds in-between those years when it holds a conference, I really believe E3 can be turned into something major again.

And by making E3 follow a four-year schedule, it'll quickly become the most important conference in the industry.

Want to know what Don is up to? Follow him on Twitter and FriendFeed.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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