Geoff Keighley isn’t worried about E3 making a comeback
Geoff Keighley isn’t sure what E3 is anymore. Even before COVID forced the cancellation of the personal version of the giant video game commercial that’s now masquerading as an industry trade show for three years in a row, the event was already a pale, big three-publisher imitation of its former self.
E3 is coming back. That’s what the organizers said in a very “for realsies this time, you” kind of way. But when I asked Keighley about the prospect of E3 and Summer Game Fest – affectionately known as Not-E3 or, my personal favorite, Keigh-3 – coexisting next year, he just seemed unconvinced that it would be necessary. to be.
“E3 said they would be back. Which I don’t know what that means, right?” he told me at the new personal section of Summer Game Fest in Los Angeles. “So I don’t know what that means.”
His skepticism is well founded. Last year, the ESA said it would host E3 2022 only to cancel not only the in-person event (which was likely justified given that a pandemic is still underway), but also the digital version.
“I don’t know what E3 is,” he said soberly. “I think we need to define what E3 is before we can say whether it’s competitive or not.”
“We are super happy with this experience,” he added. “And the publishers who are really our partners in this also seem very happy with this. So we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and scaling up.”
Scale is important for newer events like Summer Game Fest, and it’s something Keighley said he thinks about when thinking about its future in a post or even concurrent E3 world. Play Days, the personal part of Keigh-3 open to media and influencers, was a small affair – too small, some argue, without the known presence of the big hitters like Sony, Xbox or Nintendo. (Although Microsoft had a small presence through its id@Xbox indie show and its Samsung Smart TV app.)
Keighley acknowledged criticism that Game Fest wasn’t doing enough. “Some fans clearly wanted more announcements in terms of new games to announce, which is completely justified feedback,” he said. “But we can only show the games that are actually made.”
While there were some notable big names in attendance such as Sonic Limits and Street Fighter 6and the keynote itself had so many space shooters that it became a memePlay Days chose to focus primarily on a smaller, eclectic selection of games from solo and indie developers that, in Keighley’s opinion, seemed almost more appealing than just focusing on what comes out of the big three.
“We have a lot of great indie games here because those are the guys that really need the attention,” he said. “That’s the magic of these events that we can put together.”
He is right. There was something magical about being able to play a game I wouldn’t have had time for otherwise in a big, saturated room like E3 (I say guessing since I’ve never been to an E3… yet† I was charmed by the witchy and spooky yet comfortable vibes of Birth† A little to the left† which contains puzzles that ask “how do these random objects fit together” immediately calmed my object association-obsessed brain. When I asked Keighley what games he liked, he brought up the fantastic Time flies in which you play as a fly tasked with fulfilling as many events on your bucket list as possible, such as “get drunk” or “learn guitar” within your second-long flying life. Such games are buried at E3.
“I just love that we can have a diversity of content here,” Keighley said. “The element of discovery is so important to those independent developers, and I’m proud that we can make indie games a part of the show.”
Speaking at The Game Awards last December, Keighley made a statement: “We must not and will not tolerate abuse, harassment or robbery by anyone, including our online communities.”
While he didn’t name a specific company or developer, it was pretty clear that the comment was related to news surrounding Activision Blizzard. The overwatch publisher was not present at the Game Awards that year, but did show up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II at Summer Game Fest. “I think the Activision situation has evolved,” he said, noting that “clearly there is a lot of work to be done.”
He said that he and his team are thinking about how to use their platform for good, which is why they have made statements about Ukraine, but that with Game Fest, it is a difficult situation with a delicate balance to consider.
“How do we make sure that the developers’ work is still recognized and part of these shows, while also thinking about the kind of zeitgeist of what’s going on with bigger companies?”
While it’s entirely possible (and maybe easier than Keighley thinks) to do both, Keighley seems to think that Game Fest should just be about the games.
“I think Summer Game Fest is a bit different from The Game Awards. The Game Awards are about recognizing excellence in the industry, an awards ceremony and Summer Game Fest is this video game promotional event. So it’s on a different kind of level.”
Despite Game Fest’s relatively small size, Keighley thinks it’s a success, something he hopes he can replicate elsewhere. He threw out places like London or Australia as options where he could take the event as a way to “decentralize the old model of a trade or consumer show” as is E3. And whether or not E3 actually takes place next year, Keighley isn’t worried about the prospect of competing for the eyes.
“I think it’s a different philosophy,” he said. “A bit like a red ocean versus blue ocean strategy. Do you compete with the comrade in the water, or find your own space? And I hope that Play Days and Summer Game Fest have found their own place.”