Someone like Geoff Keighley won't have the same financial impact for E3 as, say, Sony refusing to buy booth space. But when it comes to the broader narrative about where E3 is headed, it's not a good look.
The games industry veteran and director of The Game Awards, Keighley posted a statement announcing "the difficult decision to decline to produce E3 Coliseum". The statement on Twitter didn't explain why Keighley turned down the presenting gig at E3, but in follow-up statements and interviews the reasoning became more clear.
I wanted to share some important news about my plans around E3 2020. pic.twitter.com/EhrreKV9oR
— Geoff Keighley (@geoffkeighley) February 12, 2020
"Based on what’s been communicated to me about the show, I just don’t feel comfortable participating," Keighley told the Washington Post. "It’s no secret that E3 needs to evolve and I have lots of ideas around that, but have decided to take a wait-and-see approach," Keighley added.
In a follow-up interview with Games Industry, Keighley said E3 was "evolving from what was traditionally an industry trade show".
"I think E3 needs to be more digital, global and inclusive in its approach to connecting gamers and celebrating the industry. It's not really about who buys a booth on the show floor. Anyone who participated in The Game Festival on Steam around The Game Awards probably has a pretty good sense of my vision for how we bring the world together around games," Keighley said.
The comments perhaps provide an indicator of how serious the ESA, organisers of the annual video game exhibition, were about transforming E3. According to a leaked presentation deck, ESA proposed transforming the show floor to highlight activations and celebrity experiences, with the intention to create "exclusive/appointment only activations for select attendees who will create buzz and FOMO".
In the deck, E3 talked about parterning with influencers that could amplify E3's capacity to highlight gender equality and other "relevant social good efforts". The ESA also pitched paid media partnerships that would allow "ESA to control content and the message". Another idea included packaging game demos into the E3 Digital Ticket, letting "fans who want to experience the games showcased on the floor" access to "time-limited demos that are enjoyed through a cloud-based portal". The data from that ticket would then be shared with participating developers and publishers, letting them send "follow-up marketing" and "offers for pre-orders".