The 24th annual Electronic Entertainment Expo has wrapped in Los Angeles, bringing with it virtually every publisher, developer, agency, vendor, and retailer involved in the $108 billion game industry, boasting over 69,000 attendees and 200+ exhibitors at this year’s show.
E3 2018 set itself apart from previous years in both presentation and scale – major players held their gaming showcases offsite in lieu of their traditional mega-booths – and newcomers pulled out all the stops to dominate headlines and share of voice. Publishers drew their lines in the sand on hot-button issues, and former gimmicks evolved into mainstays.
Below are 5 industry trends that stood out at E3 2018:
1: “Battle Royale” Stole the Show
The “Battle Royale” genre was on everyone’s minds and lips at E3, following the runaway success of category leaders PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, and recent on-stage announcements that the genre will be coming to Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and EA’s Battlefield V. In gaming, a battle royale is a survivalistic genre that integrates elements of exploration and scavenging with a last-man-standing overarching goal.
Though the Battle Royale phenomenon has dominated recent headlines, with the genre’s two leading titles collectively earn over $300 million per month, Epic Games took the earned media crown with its Fortnite Celebrity Pro-Am at the Banc of California stadium in downtown LA. The event featured 100 celebrities, influencers, and professional players competing for $3 million in charity, drawing in a line of fans nearly two miles long. ESPN declared it “a snow globe filled with 2018’s pop culture shaken violently” – an impressive example of how a gaming brand can break through to the mainstream with a smart content strategy (and steep budgets).
2: Inclusivity embraced by the industry’s biggest players
This year, leading developers and publishers embraced diversity more than ever in their E3 showings. In a sign of a maturing industry, LGBTQ characters featured prominently in major trailers for Battlefield V, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and The Last of Us Part II, and leading female and minority protagonists were proudly showcased.
Inclusivity has been a growing trend in an effort to better represent an increasingly diverse base of consumers and creators.
3: Everything Experiential
With E3 in its second year selling tickets to 15,000 gamers in addition to the usual 50,000+ industry attendees, exhibitors can no longer rely on a strong game demo to fill their booths. Most of the show’s 200+ exhibitors have taken a page from the Comic-Con playbook to entice showgoers to experience, engage, and share on social. There’s never been a more important time for gaming-adjacent agencies to hone their experiential capabilities in this space.
4: Loot boxes now define the great publisher war
In the wake of controversies around EA’s divisive microtransaction practices in Star Wars: Battlefront II, publishers have now begun to take a stand on the inclusion of “loot boxes” and microtransactions in their games. This year, EA announced at the reveal of Battlefield V (and reiterated on-stage at E3) that there would be no premium pass or random-chance loot box model in the game. This falls in line with similar models of free, continuous content in recent games such as Rainbow Six Siege and Fortnite, relying instead on the sales of cosmetic items to fuel record revenues.
Activision announced during E3 that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 would continue to provide additional content throughout the game’s second year via a more traditional season pass model, prompting sharp comparisons to the competition. This issue will define how publishers are perceived in fans’ eyes for years to come, with 2018 marking a key milestone in how AAA-tier titles are marketed.
5: VR is out (but not quite)
In a break from last year, virtual reality at E3 has faded from a must-have of any show floor experience to a curiosity found only at the PlayStation and Facebook Gaming booths. However, VR-exclusive titles such as Beat Saber and Ghost Giant were hits among attendees and proved out the very best the medium has to offer.
Despite advancements and price drops surrounding the PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift headsets, the medium has yet to find its breakout hit to bring VR to the masses. As the collective adoption or abandonment of VR for gamers hangs in the balance, it’s clear that consumers are more interested in multi-hour gaming content over quick, consumable tech demos. As such, next 2019 may serve as VR’s ‘moment of truth’ year for gamers, and E3 2019 will provide the arena.
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