E3, the video game expo, will finally open to the public this year

Is your body ready?

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
3 min read
Watch this: The best booths at E3 2016

The Electronic Entertainment Expo -- better known as E3 -- one of the world's biggest video game expos, has always been closed to the public. If you wanted to get into this gaming Mecca, you had to join the video game industry. Or find a way to sneak inside.

But this year, for the first time ever, this California gaming dream is letting the public in. GameSpot reports that the show will sell 15,000 full-access, three-day tickets to the event, which runs June 13-15 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Not just anyone will be able to afford one of those tickets, mind -- they'll cost $150 a pop, a price that goes up to $250 after the first 1,000 tickets are sold. The Electronic Software Association (ESA), which runs E3, will sell them here starting this coming Monday, February 13 at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET.

Not that I expect them to stay at $250 for long! People have been dreaming of getting into E3 for years. You might find prices soar even higher on auction sites like eBay, due to greedy scalpers.

Even without scalping, it's pricey: Tickets to Gamescom, a show in Cologne, Germany that's roughly quadruple the size of E3 and welcomes the public, can typically be had for under 20 euros (roughly $20, £15 or AU$25). The Tokyo Game Show offers public tickets for 1,200 yen, or about $10, £8.50 or AU$14.

The bigger question is what E3 is going to be like when you actually get there. My colleague Dan Ackerman, a longtime E3 vet, has been asking the ESA to open up E3 for years. Even this past year, he argued that E3 is too good to keep it hidden away from the public.

But when I spoke to ESA comms VP Rich Taylor last year, he said opening up to the public would make E3 a very different show.

Since there's a finite amount of space in the LA Convention Center where E3 is held, Taylor said E3 has had to cap attendees at 50,000 each year -- a number typically reserved for businesspeople, press and a small number of guests (roughly 4,000-5,000 each year, Taylor said) of the exhibiting companies. Some of those folks may need to go.

More importantly, since E3 didn't have to worry about mobs of general attendees, the ESA was able to pack exhibitors into fairly narrow rows.

"It changes a lot of things more than just a few more people in the hall, it changes the number of companies showing innovations," Taylor told me last June.

Nintendo's booth at E3 2016 (pictures)

See all photos

And speaking as someone who snuck into E3 myself (it's a fun story!) and has since attended many times as press, I've gotta tell you that E3 isn't quite the place it used to be, and it might not be the way you imagine it in your head.

These days, a lot of the show has been designed with cameras in mind, not people. The lines can seem endless. Unless E3 changes an awful lot for 2017, the best seat in the house might still be your own couch at home.

Still, the 18-year-old me wouldn't say no to a ticket.

Update, 9.20 a.m. PT: According to the ESA, E3 2017 "will still have a central media and business component and we welcome professional attendees to purchase business passes (and get those benefits), including a dedicated entrance and VIP Business Lounge."

Nintendo Switch hands-on preview: Nintendo's new games console wants to be your only one, bridging handheld and TV.