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E3 - How to avoid the hype-train

12/06/17

Summer has arrived and the 23rd Electronic Entertainment Expo – better known as E3 will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Centre this week. It’s an enormous show with wall to wall press coverage before, during and after the event and over 50,000 people expected to attend. 

Many devs are there to focus on demonstrating new games on the show floor and a core theme is trying to attract favourable press coverage, word of mouth publicity and social media amplification to enhance product reach. With such concentrated, direct dialogue from thousands of players, E3 coverage has the capacity to spawn viral-scale reaction so even with the most careful planning, the PR machine can take on a life of its own, even for smaller devs. So through the crowds and the headlines, how do developers get through the hype and ensure E3 helps them to accelerate their games business? We spoke to our clients to find out how it’s done.

Who? Why? What and where?

A good starting point is to define what you’re specifically looking to get out of the event. Using a multi-pronged approach is one way to ensure making the trip to E3 is worthwhile. It’s also important to build in some follow-up activity time soon after you’re back to make sure you don’t lose the momentum in the relationships you’ve invested in.
Alongside your objectives, focussing in on a list of key people that you want to meet will prevent you from getting distracted by the scale of the show and help you plan how to get in front of them. Booking some advance appointments is a great idea but allow for chance meetings and go-for opportunities as they come up. Our contacts tell us that a mix of ad hoc and pre-booked meetings is a winning combination and takes the pressure off rushing from meeting after meeting. If you haven’t met your contact before a quick screen-shot of their LinkedIn page picture can help avoid any mistaken identities. Remember to collect business cards too and take a moment to quickly write a reminder on the back immediately after you’ve met them, a big help to job the memory when it comes to follow-up. 
E3 is a great opportunity to check out the competition - it’s not often you get to see dozens of rival titles while chatting to the team about how it was made. This also makes for one of the more enjoyable experiences in an otherwise high-pressure show. 

Be seen

Major industry events have the power to contribute significantly toward the visibility and accessibility of games. Alongside the big players many smaller studios have a chance to gain direct dialogue with their audiences through demos, enabling them to observe gamers’ experience of their products in real time. These live-tests enable an unprecedented level of feedback on a scale not easily available elsewhere. Tom Beardsmore at Coatsink shares his view.  “Big shows are incredibly important, having a presence on a show floor is particularly beneficial due to the exposure to the public, press and influencers. This exposure is just as important (if not more) as the quality of the product itself”. The games industry has become increasingly aware that getting a product out to market is one thing, but getting it found, bought and played is another. “You can’t assume people will magically find your products” Beardsmore warns. “It’s good to maintain a healthy distance from the hype, and I find a good reality-check is to focus on the credentials of the developers rather than the game itself. As in film, the creators are what counts. 9 out of 10 times you can predict whether a game or film will be good or bad based on the strength of the team behind it”.

Be Practical

E3 can be physically demanding with jet-lag, late-night networking, a sore throat from too much talking, tired legs from floor-walking as par for the course. Dave Cullinane, Account Director at Realtime UK shares his top tips for the realities of the show:- 
“Be prepared for the enormity of it all, E3 is a hugely ambitious show where everyone is vying for attention. You’ll have a lot of ground to cover, so make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a LOT of walking. Organise your time well, and make sure that you’re familiar with the layout and plan the best places to hold meetings where you’ll get your clients’ full attention. Try and make sure you’ve got plenty of battery on your devices – especially mobile. I’m heavily reliant on mine, with all my meetings and numbers in my phone, ready to go. If you’re device is constantly threatening to run out of juice, it can only add to the stress, so have a printout with your schedule on just in case”. This is especially important if you’re relying on the E3 app to navigate and given that hearing your phone will be a challenge make sure it’s on vibrate in case you get a last minute meeting update on the hoof.  
“Lunch is for wimps!” declares Dave, “unless you’re with a client of course. I try and make the most of being at the epicentre of the world’s gaming industry so will be happy to grab a sandwich (if I’ve even got time for that) between darting to different meeting points”. 

Beware the pre-set agenda

Dave also points out that you may not always be able to set the agenda you want when it comes to conversation; - “For many E3 is the culmination of many months of work, so having a meeting about what they have planned for the future can sometimes be a little tricky. Be patient – a lot of people you’re there to meet will be interested to meet with you, but might not necessarily be able to spare the time. All the people I want to speak to in the industry are most likely to be at this event rather than any of the other big industry shows. However, such is the demand on their time and their need to be focused on plugging their latest games, publishers and developers can understandably be a bit reluctant to talk about ‘what’s next’”.

What else can E3 bring?

Being such a large show-case the cost of a stand at E3 is a big barrier to entry, though many smaller businesses demo on larger stands through partner relationships, or share the costs by banding together. If you can’t make it there’s always the streamed content online, and some of the big-name show highlights will make the national news. As with all the major events however, exhibiting isn’t the only reason to attend. Given that so much of the games industry will be under one roof at the same time, E3 provides a shared benefit with great opportunities for networking and exploring everything that’s happening in the games market first hand. With so much expertise in one place and the devs so accessible on the floor, being bold enough to strike up a conversation can often lead to fascinating insight not available anywhere else. Exhibitors have their open and friendly game-face on by default and being generous in sharing some of your own experience can go a long way to creating new relationships that may be valuable down the line. 

Though E3 can feel like the size of a small planet, games are ultimately one facet of the global leisure industry, all competing for finite audience time and attention. In some ways the scale and the hype are part of the fun. It’s a glut of showmanship, creativity, hardware, platforms, peripherals, tech, studios, services, genres and titles so it’s wonderful to savour the E3 spectacle as a celebration of games. Enjoy!

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