[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]nother year, another E3; that magical land of games, over priced food, foot traffic, booth babes, and ear blisteringly loud music. E3 is the Promised Land to many gamers, after all, where else can you see a ton of unreleased games and talk to developers?
As exciting as it may be to dream of going, I’m here to tell you that you should give up on that dream.
Ok, that sounds a bit harsh. Let’s try this instead
As great as E3 can be, it’s simply not worth the financial and emotional cost.
I’m not going to lie just to prove a point, so I’ll be direct. If you pay to get into E3 you’re doing it wrong. Sure, the official early registration cost to non-industry folks is $800, and $1,000 if you’re late, but you’re in the industry right? Right? If you’re not sure, then you really need to be more imaginative.
So, you’ve avoided a huge cost. Congratulations!
Do you live in Southern California? If so, be ready to spend about $40 a day on parking. That’s $120 for three days, not bad. However, let’s assume that like most of the world you don’t live in So. Cal. If you’re flying then you’re going to be spending about $250 each way for airfare. This cost can vary depending on where you live and how far in advance you book, but I’d say $250 each way is fairly reasonable based on the research I’ve done.
That’s $500 so far.
Where will you be staying during the show? As a non-Southern California resident you’re going to need a hotel room. Have you booked your room for E3 2015 yet? You better hurry, because rooms are already being snatched up. Look for most rooms within 5 miles of the convention center to be booked before the end of this year. If you are Johnny on the Spot you’ll find that you’re looking at about $350 a night for accommodations at a decent hotel. Assuming you arrive the day before the show and leave on the last day then you’re paying for three nights, which will run you approximately $1100 including taxes and surcharges.
Do you like food? Have you ever tried to find a cheap place to eat near the convention center? Let’s not even get into the cost vs. quality argument of the LA Convention Center food. You’re looking at $50.00 for food, assuming we don’t count your arrival date. That’s $150 to eat on the cheap during your trip.
You’ll notice I didn’t include transportation costs in this. If you’re staying at a non terrible hotel you can save some good money on transport. They’ll provide free shuttle service to and from the airport, as well as the convention center. If you don’t do that then you’re looking at about $40 each way for the airport, and about $10 a day for transport to/from the show. However, you’re staying at a hotel near the center that provides free shuttles, you just saved $120!
Believe it or not that’s pretty much it; there aren’t a lot of expenses to attend E3. Here’s the breakdown.
$1,750. You’ll notice that the list seems a bit short, that’s because it is. It’s not taking souvenirs, extra food, “fun”, and other things into account. However, if you show some restraint you can keep it to that $1,750 – $2,000 range.
Know what else you can get for a couple grand? A pretty solid 50 – 60 inch TV and an Xbox One and a PS4. That’s an insane amount of entertainment. Don’t fancy yourself as a lowly consolite? Do you know what kind of computer you can get for $2,000? Exactly.
Budget accordingly and you can get a new computer for about $800, a 50 inch Samsung TV (UN50F5500) for $750, and a new console.
Is a new entertainment center really a substitute for following your dream of going to E3? Yes it is. E3 is a horrible place to see games. Disagree? How about you crowd as many people as possible into your room, turn up five different radios to full blast, and try playing a game while standing up. If you like shooters it might not be too bad, but if you like adventure, puzzle, rpg, strategy, or almost any other genre you’re screwed.
“But Greg! I want to see the latest and greatest game that everyone’s talking about!”
Sorry to hear that, because most the big games are either shown behind closed doors, or in PR led presentations that require you to stand in line for 2+ hours so you can watch someone else play. It’s almost like watching the exact same gameplay footage on your new TV; except with more waiting, more body odor, and less snacks.
These days IGN, Gamespot, and others provide such extensive coverage of the show that you can see all of the promo videos and gameplay demonstrations attendees see, except in comfort and high quality, rather than in the middle of a crowd while you squint in order to make things out because of reflections from the lights. In fact, in my experience I found that I ended up missing out on a lot of games due to the chaos of the show.
The emotional impact of E3 might not seem significant, but to some it can be a huge deal. An ongoing joke that publishers must have while showing games at E3 is that everything shown is coming out in a few months. I can’t begin to remember the number of times I had a PR rep tell me that the new and exciting game I tried out was coming out in September, only to have it continuously delayed, or quietly cancelled.
There’s also the realization that many of the games being shown are looking the best they’ll ever be, with inevitable corners to be cut or order to meet a release date, or ensure that it runs properly. The sweet honey that the person demoing the game gently drips into your ear quickly turns sour when the promised features are inevitably dropped in order to ‘get the damn thing shipped.’
All of the things I’ve discussed pale in comparison to the single most significant cost you’ll pay going to E3: the loss of wonder. It’s all very exciting when you walk up the main staircase and into the vast arena of gaming Valhalla, but do you know what comes after that? Crushing disappointment with bountiful sides of lies and sore feet. Walk the show floor for a couple days and you’ll be ready to go home; your brain packed full of more imagery than you can handle. Once you get home you’ll go online and watch some videos of things you missed, or want to see again. But that’s it, there’s nothing more to dream about; E3 has gone from something you fantasized about, to a blurred memory spelled out as a line item on your credit card statement.
Then it happens, around mid August, when it’s time to start booking that hotel room, your friend asks if you want to go again next year.
“Meh, I’ve already been. Besides, I need a new computer to play the games we just saw.”
Next year, come E3, just stay home, buy some new electronic gods, get some food, and relax.
Originally published in June ’14, I figured it was time to revisit the draw of attending E3.