I spent today watching Bethesda broadcast a static shot of the Pip-Boy mascot from the Fallout franchise standing in front of a TV that says “please stand by.” I’m not alone. Tens of thousands of other fans of Bethesda’s games did as well — at this moment, more than 100,000 are still watching the livestream on Twitch. And we’re doing this to ourselves because this is what E3 is now.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show doesn’t kick off in the Los Angeles Convention Center until June 12, but the event began in spirit a couple of weeks ago. Since Walmart Canada leaked unannounced games on its store page on May 11, we’ve had nonstop news ever since. E3 judge’s week happened, Activision had an event for its Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 reveal, EA did one for Battlefield V, and Bethesda confirmed Rage 2 with a gameplay trailer. Many of these events followed days or weeks of teasing from the publishers, and that has taught us to expect big things when publishers start getting cute on social media and Twitch.
And Bethesda is being very cute right now. It is now teasing something happening at 8:42 — although we don’t know if that’s a.m. or p.m. Bethesda is in the Eastern time zone, so it could still mean 8 p.m. tonight.
But who knows! And that’s the point. Developers and publishers can play into excitement this time of year because of E3, and they are doing exactly that.
Beyond whatever the publisher may end up announcing, this is another reminder that E3 is a month-long season in the middle of the calendar now. Where we once waited for a couple of days in early June for every major publisher to surprise us over and over, publishers are spreading into May to stake out a piece of the calendar they can own. And while they may not have as many eyeballs as E3 proper, more than enough people are paying attention to all of these dedicated presentations, and that’s due in part to the building excitement of the event.
Does this mean E3 won’t have any surprises? Maybe. Probably not, but we will probably all go into that event with a comprehensive idea of what to expect. That might disappoint some people who revel in the concentrated madness that was E3 of the past, but I’m not complaining. The teasing is part of the fun, and I’m glad that companies like Bethesda get that and can promote their products in a clever way.