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Player Versus Player: Do Conferences Still Matter?

By Christopher Coke on June 28, 2015 | Columns | Comments

Do Conferences Still Matter?

Welcome back to Player Versus Player, your bi-weekly debate column where two MMORPG writers go head to head to argue the issues you care about. With E3 in our rearview and other conferences just around the bend, players stay perched on the edge of their seats hungry for new information. But more and more, developers seem to rely less on conferences and more on regular news drops. This week we ask, do conferences still matter?

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Your combatants:

Chris “Loves Him Some E3” Coke: Chris makes a habit of watching every big conference. In the world of gaming, these things matter!

Ryan “Give Me Facts, Not Hype” Getchell: The guy who refuses to ride the Hype Train.

Ryan: Before I get too involved in this topic, which I’m bound to do because I am pretty passionate about certain aspects of it, I need say something first. I thoroughly enjoy attending and watching gaming conferences. That being said, I think they are being done strictly as a hype train which is detrimental to the gaming world itself.  The modern day conferences we have for the gaming genre typically show off games that aren’t even being released this year. That leaves people a lot of time to build up their own theories and expectations of the game which rarely ever get met. Then all we’re left with are broken dreams of how good it could have been.

Chris: Come now, Ryan. That’s a cynical view of things! Yes, you’re right. A lot of press conventions like E3 are about hype, but I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think that hype isn’t an important part of video games in 2015. Sure, it can go too far, but anticipating a new game is one of the most exciting parts of being a fan! These conventions are fun to follow because you never know what new piece of information is going to trickle out. That’s actually why I love smaller, panel-based conventions like PAX. Some panels may as well be called “developers unchained” because so much of what you hear is more genuine and unfiltered than any other time of the year.

Ryan: Hearing Developers speak is awesome, but when the game is in development what they are saying about their games may never actually come to fruition. Which leads to major disappointment. I remember speaking to a developer about TESO back at PAX and they were talking about Cyrodiil and discussing some of the resource escort tasks they were working on. It’s still not in the game and was never mentioned again. Major disappointment. Like I said, I enjoy conferences, I just think they shouldn’t be able to discuss games that way no were near playable.

I think Bethesda did it perfectly. Rarely do they discuss games that aren’t being released outside of a year. Fallout 4 is a great example, announced this year at E3 and being released this year as well (November 10th 2015) pending any delays of course. That’s the way it should be, the fans of the series are the ones who are going to be hyped for it, they’re the ones who are going to be playing it. Other companies hype games for years and they get players who don’t care about the game playing it strictly because of the hype. They then complain about the game because it’s not what they expected.

Chris: Oh, I totally agree. One of the reasons conventions mean less is that for years they’ve announced games years ahead of their release. It seems like this year they’re smartening up, but don’t you just hate that? Still, I try to hold two things in mind: 1) that everything is subject to change and 2) how cool would it be if these things actually delivered. You’re not wrong on this, I think it’s just a mindset you have to adopt to really enjoy them to their fullest.

But let me turn the conversation. Are these things relevant to MMO players anymore? After Warhammer Online, it seems like the genre really dropped off at events like E3.

Ryan: This year we don’t have any major MMOs being announced or released. As I typed that I actually thought of one. What’s it called? The Division, that’s it. That game was announced at E3 in 2013. I was super stoked for that game when I first heard about it, a month later completely forgot about it. Heard about it again at E3 2014 but it was lost among the plethora of games that came out. So aside from that, I have to agree I think the MMO genre seems to have stepped away from self-promoting in conferences. That being said, the large MMOs that we’re all looking at are coming from smaller/newer companies like City State Entertainment or ArtCraft Entertainment. These smaller companies can’t fork over so much money to put on the hype train keynote that Microsoft or Sony can.

Chris: As an MMO fan, I find the lack of coverage very disappointing. I don’t expect them to put on conferences like the heavy hitters, but I do expect something. Looking purely at MMORPGs, these conferences are definitely swaying away. But, you know, I do think there’s something to be said for what they show at their booths and those panels I talked about before. They may not be making a splash at E3 anymore, but I certainly think they catch attention at events like PAX and DragonCon. It sure would be nice to expand beyond panels and have a studio blow our socks off, y’know? And not just Blizzard.

Ryan: We can argue if conferences are a good or bad thing for the genre, but no matter what we end up deciding, they are here to stay. The point of a conference is to get information out to the public and to get your game / company noticed and E3 and PAX do just that very well. I think when it is all said and done the people in the communities need to adjust their thinking, and adapt the mentality you mentioned earlier. Take the information with a grain of salt, don’t get your hopes up, don’t expect it to be anything than a vague marketing ploy to get your attention. If it looks interesting than following it, play it when it comes out, but play it for what it is, not what you expect it to be.

Chris: I couldn’t have said it better myself!

And with that, our hosts retire. The issue is now in your hands. Let us know where you fall in the comments below!

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.