Though the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) has wrapped up for this year, the announcements and promises of new games and features will keep fans excited for quite some time. With E3 consistently reaching larger audiences, you’d think that the convention began when video games were just starting to gain popularity. In actuality, the convention started in 1995, only 19 years ago. While that may still seem like a long time, that only covers half of the age of console gaming (with the first console coming out in 1972). For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re going to look at the differences between the oldest and newest Electronic Entertainment Expos.
The first E3 was held from May 11th-13th 1995 in the Los Angeles Convention Centre. In contrast, the 20th E3, taking place this year, was held in the same venue but from June 10th-12th. With about 50,000 in attendance for the first convention, the companies were set to impress. The name of the game is sales, and the flashier and better you are, the more sales you’ll get. This fact still holds true today, with companies fighting each other to “win” the convention.
Like every E3 after it, the first E3 had a press conference the day before, where the major companies got a chance to reveal to the audience what to expect from them in the coming year. The Companies wanted to go big, and they were going to kick the convention off with a bang, damn it! Sega announced their Sega Saturn, but revealed that they had secretly shipped it off to retailers and it was available to buy for $399, despite originally planning for September 2nd (the ad campaign was Sega Saturn Saturday September 2nd, which clearly went out the door). This was a pleasant shock to fans. Amazingly, Sony managed to one-up Sega by announcing that their console, the PlayStation, would only cost $299. Nintendo, having announced a week prior that their new console, the Ultra 64 (which became the Nintendo 64) would be delayed for another year, sat quietly in the corner while the new consoles fought it out. And so, the console wars continued on.
The booths at the convention were filled to the brim with awesome things…most of which had nothing to do with gaming whatsoever. Michael Jackson showed up to hang out with Sony at their party, Acclaim brought out the Batmobile and Judge Dredd motorcycles (to be fair, it was to promote their videogames based on the two films, but the models perhaps took away from this fact), and Nintendo had a huge party with Seal and had their own models in the showroom. Clearly the companies were not above preying on the primal instincts of its male-majority crowd.
Now that you have a basic idea of what the first E3 was like, well…what’s the point? Why was it so important? E3 was the first time anyone ever saw the PlayStation, which is now an established franchise from Sony going strong on its fourth generation with the PS4. On the other hand, the Saturn’s originally brilliant idea ended up backfiring on them. They only had four games out for the console, since developers had expected to have four more months to work on their games (how silly of them, since everyone knows that when you say “Sega Saturn Saturday September 2nd” you mean “let’s release this thing in May!”) coupled with the higher price tag and stock issues and confusion with the retailers (refer to the developer’s dilemma above), things did not pan out well for the Saturn. The resulting disaster caused low sales for the console, and ultimately doomed the Sega Dreamcast as well. After the Dreamcast, Sega never released another console, surrendering to the console wars. Despite the console failure, Sega did release Vectorman for the Sega Genesis, a beautiful 3D platformer that featured a green robot as it protagonist, which ended up being an astounding success.
Despite the delays on their big competitive console, the future N64, Nintendo did have a console to show off — the Virtual Boy. They had a hundred of them in the showroom for people to test out. It boasted three-dimensional graphics, but like the Saturn, ended up being a commercial failure, mostly because of its monochromatic display and its tendency to cause headaches, dizziness and nausea. It seemed that the PlayStation, the newbie to the gaming scene, was the one that won in the end, with it’s now-classic games such as Twisted Metal, the $100 cheaper price tag, and the promise of fifty games at launch, it easily beat out its competitors. Nowadays, things aren’t so easy for Sony, since the company constantly finds itself neck and neck with Microsoft, which took Sega’s place in the console gaming trifecta.
The first Electronics Entertainment Expo saw bright beginnings and bitter ends, and laid down the framework for future E3 events. Even though gaming isn’t the most popular pastime, once a year, the rest of the world gets as excited about gaming as we gamers do.