This year will be my 23rd Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). I missed the first two shows, but I have always considered these big game trade shows to be an indispensable part of understanding the game industry and the people who make it happen.
For those who like the business of joy, I recommend you go. But it’s worth soaking in a few tips from an old guy who can help you prepare. I’ve recycled some of the tips from years past, but I still have a lot of new things that are good for you to know.
First, do not go to San Francisco or Las Vegas. This show will once again fill the cavernous Los Angeles Convention Center, with more than 200 exhibitors on the expo floor from Tuesday, June 11, until Thursday, June 13. More than 200 exhibitors will fill up all of the space at the convention center, according to Stanley Pierre-Louis, the CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).
The ESA is the trade group that puts on the show, and in an interview with GamesBeat, Pierre-Louis said about 50 of the exhibitors are at the show for the first time. Since we have about 2.6 billion gamers in the world, and thousands of media and influencers are attending, you can actually expect billions of media impressions over the course of E3.
Second, Sony won’t be there. The company gave up its big booth on the show floor this year, presumably to save up for the marketing of the PlayStation 5 or because it didn’t have much to show based on game shipment dates. Electronic Arts and Activision won’t be on the show floor (though they have meeting rooms).
But you will still see a lot of booths. The truss and hoists at E3 — used to suspend lighting and hanging elements — weigh the equivalent of 136 orcas. The Ethernet cabling at the show weighs more than 2 tons and could reach from Los Angeles to San Francisco — twice. More than 55 miles of fiber optic cable sits throughout the convention center.
E3 provides jobs for more than 4,000 people in the course of producing the show, and it generates more than $88 million in revenue for Los Angeles. It has 5 miles of aisle carpet, more than 250 trailers of equipment and exhibit materials. The event produces enough graphics to cover seven basketball courts (and that is only the graphics the ESA produces — exhibitors do a lot of their own).
Crowds: Once again, here is one of the big secrets: You don’t have to go. Everything is being livestreamed, even a lot of things that are happening on the show floor. But if you must go, know that you’ll be run into 50,000 professionals attending the event, but at times it feels like they are outnumbered by the 15,000 fans who were willing to spend money on tickets so they could wait all day trying to get into a 15-minute demo of a favorite game.
You must get your badge before you go, so print out your confirmation and take it with you so you can get your badge fast. This year, professionals can enter the floor at 11 a.m. Tuesday, a few hours before fans can get in at 2 p.m. That will help alleviate the crush of people trying to get into the show at the outset.
Based on the feedback from past years, the ESA extended the hours of the show floor until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, 7 p.m. on Wednesday, and 6 p.m. on Thursday.
Security: Once again, security will be tight. Media and exhibitors are allowed to bring backpacks into the event, but general attendees are prohibited from doing so. Those with consumer passes can carry one small bag, no larger than 12 inches-by-15 inches-by-6 inches.
And don’t bring any flammable liquids, alcohol, marijuana, firearms, pepper spray, or projectile weapons. In other words, leave behind all of the gear that you have in real life that resembles stuff in video games.
All bags will be subject to search, and everyone will have to go through metal detectors. You can pick up swag bags inside the expo, and you can take them out with you. But you cannot re-enter the show floor with swag bags. Luggage bags are not allowed, and you will need extra time to park, walk, and clear the security checkpoints.
Keep in mind you may face a line for getting your badge. Do not lose your badge. They have big goons guarding the doors who are not sympathetic, and it costs money to get a replacement badge. If you are attending events, remember to print out the bar codes that prove you are registered to attend.
Getting around: For Southwest Airlines flights, try to check in exactly 24 hours ahead of boarding. Check in your baggage if you don’t have to get anywhere fast. Be prepared for long cab lines or rental car check-in lines. But these days, ride-sharing works great in Los Angeles.
When you return to the airport, give yourself time: 2.5 hours is not a bad target for heading out before your flight at LAX. Use ride-sharing when you can. Most rental cars are off-site at LAX, so allow extra time for returns and shuttles.
Ride-sharing on Uber or Lyft works because the hassle of parking in downtown Los Angeles and the cost of parking just isn’t worth the benefit of having your own car on the open road.
A little tip for getting around: When you’re walking through the concourse area between the big halls, go upstairs. Nobody walks up there, and a parallel walkway will get you from West Hall to the South Hall.
What to pack: Bring good shoes. You’ll be on your feet for hours, so you want to make sure to have good shoes. Bring spares in case you find that what you thought was comfortable isn’t. Pack some ibuprofen and vitamins, too, along with water and snacks. I also use a roller for my backpack to save me from wearing a heavy load for 14 hours. (Of course, most people are not allowed to use these anymore.)
If you collect a lot of swag, you can send it home via shipping services instead of carting it on the plane. You should print a map of the exhibit floor or rip one out of the show guide. Print out your paper calendar in case you (horrors) lose your phone or run out of power. Bring your battery pack boosters too.
Avoid shaking hands to escape the E3 flu. Drink lots of water and bring chargers. Maybe even a surge protector if you can fit it in your suitcase. Get some sleep — you really don’t have to party every night. Your best bet for good food is outside the expo.
Appointments: Remember to get the cell contact of the person you are meeting with. Booth receptionists are always busy, and it takes time to check in. Either arrive early or be prepared for a shorter-than-expected meeting. You’ll need cell contacts in case anyone surprises you with a meeting cancellation. This happens a lot, especially on the last day. Try to do all of your appointments in one big hall on one day. You have the big West (where the platform companies are) and South halls and the Concourse Hall that connects them.
Schedule your appointments in locations that are near each other. I have not succeeded in doing this again, and so some of my 30-minute meetings will be more like 10 minutes. Arrive early for keynotes because the lines are long. I would avoid the lines for the closed theaters. Getting hands-on with a game is a lot more fun than watching someone else play or watching a trailer. The latter is what you get in a theater.
Parking: Well, I’m not sure what I can say about this except get there early, and be wary of the traffic around the convention center. The convention center has a lot of parking underneath, and you can find lots in the surrounding area. As I said earlier, if you can get away without driving, ride-sharing is a real alternative.
Social: Snap pictures. Share them. Your friends will be envious. Don’t do anything criminal, because you’ll be caught on camera by somebody else. Don’t be disappointed if no one notices your tweet among the 3 million or more tweets that will happen at the show.
If you’re interested in parties, here’s the list for that. Make sure you have RSVPs and have proof if you want to make sure you get in.
As noted, the ESA extended the hours of E3 this year. The expo floor is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (all times here are Pacific) on Tuesday. Gamer Passes (consumers) are not allowed in until 2 p.m. on Tuesday. On Wednesday, industry attendees can get in from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Gamer Passes can get in from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Thursday, it is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for all. These are the same hours as last year.
Here’s when many of the announcements will be confirmed or broadcast for the first time.
E3 Coliseum debuted last year and it will be extended this year to Tuesday through Thursday. It will take place at The Novo theater at L.A. Live, outside the convention center. It features producer Geoff Keighley interviewing a number of game discussions for Borderlands 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Doom Eternal and others. Some of these games will have been revealed already, but it might be fun to see the creators discuss them live onstage.
Broader entertainment figures coming include actor Samuel L. Jackson, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, actor Jack Black, magician Penn Jillette, Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Avengers: Infinity War director Joe Russo, and actor Elijah Wood.
It runs from 10 a.m. Tuesday to 7 p.m. On Wednesday, it runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Thursday it runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Note: No bags are allowed into the E3 Coliseum, not even for exhibitors or media. Keighley will also be broadcasting for 10 hours on Sunday on YouTube.
The ESA will have an Esports Zone this year with a 10,000-square feet area inside the convention center where esports events will take place live.
This place in the West Hall will feature a content stage programmed by Subnation and Shacknews, plus an esports stage for community exhibition matches with influencers and pro gamers.
The zone will be host to the NBA 2K Free Play Pro-Am Competition, the FortNite Free Play Session with Team JStorm, IndieCade Games Audience Competition with IndieCade players, and PUBG Free Play Pro Am Competition with Team Liquid.
Saturday, June 8
Electronic Arts has its livestream press event starting on Saturday morning, from 9:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The EA Play fan fest is once again taking place outside of E3. It will run June 8 to June 9 at the Hollywood Palladium. The big star will be the revelation of gameplay for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. We will also see updates to FIFA, Apex Legends, Battlefield V, Madden, The Sims 4, and Sea of Solitude.
Sunday, June 9
Microsoft will hold its Xbox briefing at 1 p.m. Microsoft will likely talk about its Project xCloud cloud gaming service, which will compete with Google’s recently announced Stadia service. The top games include Gears of War 5, Halo Infinite, and a new Forza.
The company went on an acquisition spree and it now owns 14 studios within its game business. That means it has a lot of games across both the PC and consoles that it can talk about. It could be a very long event.
And since Sony is not showing anything this year, Microsoft will have its pick of third-party games to show like Cyberpunk 2077, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Borderlands 3, and other games that could make a very big impression.
Bethesda will start its announcement event at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. The company will show off titles like Doom Eternal, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, The Elder Scrolls VI, Starfield, and some others.
Monday: June 10
The PC gaming show will take place at 3 p.m. on Monday, with a wide variety of game publishers, hardware companies, and indie devs making appearances. Perhaps Epic Games will show off something new with Fortnite or the Epic Games Store.
Ubisoft has its press briefing at 1 p.m. on Monday. The French game giant has already tipped its hand on Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, which will also be on Google Stadia. And Watch Dogs Legion, the third in the series, recently leaked. And we know that Skull & Bones has been delayed until 2020.
Square Enix will host a broadcast event at 6 p.m. on Monday, where it will talk about its deal with Marvel and its Marvel’s Avengers game.
Tuesday, June 11
Nintendo will be the last to unveil its slate before the show floor opens. The Nintendo Direct broadcast will happen at 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Don’t try to show up at this one, as it is an online-only event.
Nintendo has already said it will show Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, which were the focus of a recently released Pokémon Direct. Other games that will be on the show floor include Luigi’s Mansion 3, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and Super Mario Maker 2.