Activision is the latest company to withdraw from E3

News
March 1, 2016 by Kris Ligman

In what may just be a growing trend, Activision has announced it will not have booth presence at the industry expo held each year in Los Angeles.

Activision has joined fellow powerhouse publisher Electronic Arts in giving one of the biggest industry show floors a miss this year, announcing via its official blog that it will not have a booth presence at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).

"We’re looking forward to sharing exciting new details about the next great Call of Duty game in partnership with our friends at PlayStation [at E3] but won’t have an Activision booth on the show floor," writes Activision Communications Manager Scott Lowe in the announcement.

EA announced it was ceding its booth space this past January, in conjunction with the unveiling of its EA Play livestreamed press event, one day ahead of the expo. It should also be noted that Nintendo has for the last few years foregone a centralized E3-styled press conference in favor of a series of more atomized, distributed events, such as last year's Super Mario Maker preview event held at Best Buys across North America.

What's the deal with publishers suddenly giving E3 the cold shoulder? It can come down to a number of factors: Los Angeles and its convention center aren't cheap, and the booths built for it can turn into sprawling fortresses filled with high-powered (read: loud) A/V equipment, meaning it can be a place to get heard but just as easily get drowned out (and spend a lot of money for the privilege). Not to mention, E3 is still nominally an industry event meant only for vendors and press -- it's not open to the general public. If a publisher is more interested in cultivating their fanbases, there are more economical ways to do that these days. And that's exactly what Nintendo, EA and now Activision appear to be doing.

This wouldn't be a first for Activision, either: Blizzard, which merged with Activision in 2007, has hosted its own events such as Blizzcon since 2005. Capcom holds its own Street Fighter tournaments in the form of the Capcom Cup, and of course MOBA majors Valve and Riot (disclosure: ZAM's parent company, Tencent, is a major stakeholder of Riot) sponsor their games' own major esports competitions.

It also pays to keep in mind that E3 has gone through cycles of its own, most notably in 2007 and 2008 when there was no big, noisy show floor at all, just a bunch of low-key demos in hotel rooms. Of course, many in the industry remain enamored with the pomp and circumstance an event like E3 represents, which is part of why the current model returned -- but if more exhibitors begin to pull out and rethink their promotional strategies, E3 may find itself needing to pivot as well.

(Top photo: Activision's 2011 E3 booth, photograph by Doug Kline.)

Kris Ligman is the News Editor of ZAM. In years when they haven't been a game journalist, they've gone to E3 anyway just for the Streetpasses. Find them on Twitter @KrisLigman.