Video Game Confab ‘E3 2020’ Canceled Due to Concerns Over Coronavirus

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, one of the premier trade events for the video game industry, March 11 officially canceled the show, citing ongoing health concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“After careful consultation with our member companies regarding the health and safety of everyone in our industry — our fans, our employees, our exhibitors, and our longtime E3 partners — we have made the difficult decision to cancel E3 2020, scheduled for June 9-11 in Los Angeles,” organizers said in a statement. The show had planned to increase by 25,000 the number of public passes to the expo.

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Organizers said “increased and overwhelming” concerns about the virus prompted the decision. Indeed, the decision came as the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic.

To date, more than 121,000 people worldwide have been diagnosed with the virus, with the death toll exceeding 4,300, including 31 in the United States. There are more than 1,000 people diagnosed with the virus in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“We are very disappointed that we are unable to hold this event for our fans and supporters,” read an E3 statement. “But we know it’s the right decision based on the information we have today.”

First held in 1995, E3 attracted 66,000 attendees in 2019 despite Sony Entertainment not exhibiting for the first time.

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Officials said they would be reaching out to exhibitors and attendees with information about providing full refunds — and options to coordinate an online event to showcase industry announcements and news in June 2020.

“We look forward to bringing you E3 2021 as a reimagined event that brings fans, media, and the industry together in a showcase that celebrates the global video game industry,” wrote organizers.

 

E3 2019: Immersive Lights, Cameras, Action

I’ve been going to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) ever since the show began. Philips was one of the first exhibitors at E3 and, over the years, we’ve promoted everything there from video games to A-V solutions for gamers to new entertainment formats.

It was at E3 several years ago that some friends from Sony took me to a “must-see, behind-closed-doors” demo with the head of a new start-up, which turned out to be Oculus Rift.

E3 is one of the only shows where you can accurately describe your technology as a game changer … and mean it literally.

E3 has changed a lot over the years, contracting and expanding as it has evolved from an industry-only to an industry-and-consumer show. In the process, it has also become one of the better ways to connect with the gaming audience directly. Today, it’s a platform not only to
connect with media and retailers, but also gamers, celebrity-gamer influencers and the new world of e-sports management.

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This year, it was our turn to demonstrate a game-changer: an immersive home entertainment + smart lighting experience. Philips Hue – a personal, wireless lighting system that puts millions of colors at your fingertips – can now be synchronized with movies, music and games. It has the wow effect of Virtual Reality without the need for glasses and is especially well-suited for games. Explosions radiate off the screen and into your room. Movies become more engrossing and concert videos come alive, as if you’re at the venue. It’s like surround sound for your eyes.

The experience is made possible via a free Mac or PC app called Philips Hue Sync which automatically detects the color scheme on your screen and sends it in real time to the Philips Hue color-capable lighting products in your room … which could be anything from Hue light bulbs to light strips or entertainment-oriented Hue products (wall-washers). And when you’re not using the Hue Sync app, the system serves as cool, programmable everyday lighting for your home.

Over 66,000people attended E3 this year. When something is hot in the gaming world, word spreads quickly and everyone beats a path to your door. For example, lines to see the Pokemon exhibit snaked all around the Nintendo booth, creating a two-hour wait within 10 minutes after the show opened. We, too, experienced a lot of activity in our meeting room, even
though we were off the show floor. People heard what we were demonstrating and made a bee- line to our room.

I’ve done a lot of entertainment technology demos over the years, but this was the first time I heard someone say “Shut up and take my money” before our demo was over. The comment came from an e-sports manager, who later returned with some of his top, professional gamers. It seemed almost a shame to explain that the Hue Sync app is free. It was something you’d never see in the early days of E3: Professional video gamers whose clout in the industry is so strong that they can make or break a new technology with a single Twitch. Then again, live streaming was unheard of in those days … and a Twitch was just a nervous tic.

Marty Gordon is VP of Entertainment Alliances for Philips, part of the company’s corporate partnerships team, and is based in Los Angeles.

Elon Musk at E3: New Teslas to Offer Game Play, Netflix Streaming

When Elon Musk arrived at the E3 video game convention in Los Angeles, he must have felt like the man who gulped pure oxygen after living with high-altitude sickness. After dealing with countless issues and enduring Congressional scrutiny with both Tesla and Space X, he spent a day stepping back into his roots — video gaming.

“I’ve always been into video games,” he told a packed house at the Microsoft Novo Theatre. “The first time I programmed I was 10 or 11, but it was published when I was 12. It was called Blaster.” That drew a lot of nods from gamers now in their 40s and 50s. “You’re a space fighter, blasting and fighting space aliens. I wrote the game, and did graphics and sound. There was no one else to do it, but it was a very simple game. I want to emphasize that.”

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Musk and video games have both come a long way since his first programming efforts. He appeared at E3 to announce a pair of video games coming to Tesla vehicles, Beach Buggy Racing 2 and Fallout Shelter, in conjunction with video game shop Bethesda Softworks. “I’ve been a fan of Bethesda Softworks games for a long time,” he said. “I’ve played the Fallout 3 game a lot. I’ve explored every corner of that game. Also played Fallout 4; that’s great. I’m such a Fallout fan that one time, I was having a birthday, and I wanted the statue of Vault Boy in my house.”

Fallout Shelter will bring the “Fallout” series to Tesla screens. It will join the run-and-gun video game Cuphead and Beach Buggy Racing 2 as games in development. They will be available to every Tesla model with an over-the-air software update. Beach Buggy Racing 2 includes quite a feature — direct wiring to the car’s braking and steering. “If you have a racing game, and you have a steering wheel — sitting right there…” Musk teased. “The way we have it, the brake is wired in. The scroll wheel is wired to the gas pedal. Sitting on the brake if you’re stationary isn’t a problem; sitting on the gas might be.”

To that point, Musk and Bethesda Softworks chief Todd Howard emphasized that the games will only work when the Tesla is parked. ““You have to park the car to play these. The fun police make us park the car,” Musk chuckled. Later, he added, “Our games come from a question we all ask at Tesla: ‘How can we make being in the car the most fun?’ First, we look for things other people don’t have. If you just park somewhere, waiting for someone or on a road trip, it would be pretty cool to go to the car screen and play.”

The Tesla software, screen and controller are designed to house and stream a variety of video games, according to Musk. “You can play almost all the Tari games in the car,” he explained. “You can connect Xbox or PS4 controller and have some pretty good control feedback. We have some cool games, and the more people like them, the more games we’ll create and the higher up game development will be on our list. We’ll also put games into an archive you can screen-tap to download. Besides video games, we’re going to enable passengers to stream videos through the browser, watch Netflix or YouTube, if the car is parked and connected to wi-fi, say at a supercharging station.

“Our games come from a question we all ask at Tesla: ‘How can we make being in the car the most fun?’ First, we look for things other people don’t have. If you just park somewhere, waiting for someone or on a road trip, it would be pretty cool to go to the car screen and play,” he added.

Today, many compare Musk to Thomas Edison; in fact, some consider him the most important inventor on the planet since Edison. The founder of PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City sits on the front lines of sustainable driving, space exploration and green energy — and is pushing the envelope on Mars exploration. “We’re even looking at developing video game platforms for our space capsule, for crews going to Mars,” he said. “That’s going to be a long flight out there.”

However, he is not a profiteering late-adopter to video games. He’s more of a video game pioneer. He is very clear that without falling into video games as a boy, we never would have seen the larger products and technologies of his visionary mind.

“I thought seriously about creating video games as a career, for sure. Seemed like it would be sort of fun,” he recalled. “I even worked at a gaming start-up, strangely enough called Rocket Science. Fate loves irony, right? I worked there programming games, about 25 years ago. The reason I got interested in technology was video games. I wouldn’t have been as interested in computers and technology if not for video games. They’re a powerful force for getting kids in technology. The positive effects for kids, in this day and age, are far more positive than people realize. When we’re interviewing someone for a software engineering role at Tesla or Space X, we’ll ask, ‘How did you get started programming?’ More often than not, they’ll say, ‘video games.’

“Many of the best software engineers have spent parts of their careers at video game houses. If people tried to create realistic graphics using very little computer power, that’s a hard problem. So a lot of people had to write really tight code and come up with really great ideas to do that. Problem solving in video games transfers to a lot of software engineering skills, and demand is going to keep growing for that.”

Robert Yehling is an award-winning author, the founding editor of Innovation & Tech Today, and Executive Editor of STEM Today magazine.

E3: ‘Palpable’ Concern Regarding Packaged-Media Gaming, Pricing

As trade shows go, Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2019 in Los Angeles featured the usual blizzard of new-release announcements and industry scuttlebutt about the future of gaming consoles on land (hardware) and in the cloud.

Sony’s gaming unit, Sony Interactive Entertainment, skipped the event entirely, leaving much of the floor to rival Microsoft.

And it took full advantage.

“John Wick” franchise front-man Keanu Reeves created the most non-industry buzz early when he made a surprise visit to Microsoft’s pre-show presentation for the April 16, 2020 launch of Cyberpunk 2077 (also available on PlayStation 4 and PC), which features the actor as a rebellious punk rocker in a dystopian California where pretty much anything goes.

Keanu Reeves in ‘Cyberpunk 2077’

During the presentation, an attendee yelled out, “You’re breathtaking!,” to which the actor returned the compliment, adding that everyone in attendance was “breathtaking.”

The comment soon went viral, tracking more than 2.1 million views on Twitter and elsewhere.

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But to industry old-schoolers, a future of online gaming and subscription streaming supplanting $60 discs is breathtaking for the wrong reasons.

While Microsoft disclosed that Xbox One replacement — dubbed Project Scarlett — is still slated for launch for the 2020 winter holidays and would include an optical disc drive, the company remains laser-focused on streaming.

In October, it promises to preview the xCloud platform, which it claims affords Xbox One users the ability to stream games.

With advances in technology and changing consumer habits, global tech companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon are eyeing gaming.

This has rattled some investors, who heretofore marveled at gaming’s ability to stave off digital distribution in favor of high-margin packaged media played in venerable hardware consoles.

Yet, The NPD Group said that by the end of Q3 2018, 86% of gaming content was sold digitally across console, portable, PC, and mobile.

“There is a palpable level of concern that the traditional $60 upfront price for video games [on disc] is looking a bit long-in-the-tooth given changes in how people now choose to consume music and television, with all-you-can-consume subscriptions becoming the dominant forces in those markets,” Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter wrote in  June 14 note.

The analyst agrees that secular change within gaming is happening and will expose the industry to increasingly wider audiences demanding diversity (i.e. lower costs) in distribution.

Pachter said that while subscriptions to music and TV/movie streaming services “make some sense” given the long-tail of the content and the large quantity of consumption, he contends that a shift from an a-la-carte business model to subscription is unlikely to become popular except with hardcore gamers.

“We think concerns about pricing are overdone,” he wrote. “The average gamer plays three to four games per year on console or PC and another five to six games on mobile, compared to typical consumption of over 1,000 TV shows, at least that many songs, and dozens of films each year.

“We are skeptical that a Netflix-like service will emerge with thousands of choices at a low monthly price and think investor concerns about the erosion of the current business model are unfounded.”

Video Game Show E3 Opens June 11 With New AR Experience

E3 2019, the biggest annual video game trade show, opens June 11 for a three-day run at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

New this year is “The Unreal Garden @ E3,” an evolved version of the San Francisco-based augmented reality experience with new scenes and content.

E3 delivers new immersive experiences to E3 attendees each year. “The Unreal Garden @ E3,” a pop-up, blends the use of art, entertainment, augmented reality, projections, soundscapes, and technology.

“E3 provides unparalleled interactive experiences to our attendees,” said Dan Hewitt, VP of communications for the Entertainment Software Association, the U.S. video game trade association that owns and manages E3. “The Unreal Garden @ E3 provides a world-class opportunity for E3 attendees to explore the intersection of technology and human experience.”

Produced by Onedome and built on the Enklu platform, The Unreal Garden launched in San Francisco in October 2018, and is the first large-scale multiplayer AR experience using multiple technologies to deliver a fully immersive, interactive social experience with collaboration and connection at the core. Both Onedome and Enklu’s vision is to use interactive technologies to bring people together to inspire collaboration, connection, community, and empower the creative within.

Last year’s E3 attracted more than 69,200 visitors and featured more than 200 exhibitors, including 85 companies that were exhibiting at the event for the first time, showing 3,250 products.

Comcast, Activision Team for ‘Call of Duty’ Multiplayer Early-Play Promotion

Comcast and Activision are partnering to provide gamers with a chance to play the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 multiplayer before its official release Oct. 12.

Xfinity and Activision made the announcement at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.

Starting June 14 and continuing through the end of August, people online can enter a sweepstakes for a chance to play Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 multiplayer at select Xfinity stores in Washington D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, Chicago, Indianapolis and Atlanta.

“This year, Xfinity has elevated the consumer experience by offering Call of Duty fans a chance to play Black Ops 4 through the Xfinity store sweepstakes before its official release on Oct. 12,” said Tyler Michaud, VP, product management at Activision, in a statement. “Gamers will get a sneak peek at the engaging gameplay and depth of content that makes Black Ops 4 a blast to play together with your friends, and we thank Xfinity for the continued support in celebrating gamers throughout the U.S.”

In each location, Xfinity plans special events. For instance, professional basketball player Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics) will join players at the new Cambridge Xfinity store event in Boston, where he will play Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 alongside the city’s sweepstakes winners. Hayward will also partner with Xfinity on other gaming and esports initiatives throughout the year.

“Fast internet is a must-have for every gamer and as a longtime Xfinity customer, I can vouch for the speed and seamless gameplay it delivers,” said Hayward in a statement. “I’m excited to team up with Xfinity to bring early access of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 to fans and I can’t wait to join my fellow gamers in Boston.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is part of a top-selling series that’s had more than 200 million players and more than 15 billion hours played, according to the companies.

“Multiplayer features gritty, grounded combat, along with new levels of customization and tactical gameplay, and a variety of new weaponry, maps and modes,” according to a press release. “’While Zombies’ mode debuts an entirely new and unprecedented experience that’s the biggest Day One offering in franchise history — with three fully-featured Zombies experiences at launch. Black Ops 4 also delivers Blackout – the new battle royale-style experience that combines Black Ops’ signature fast, fluid, guns-up combat, with fierce new levels of survival competition across iconic Black Ops settings re-imagined at a colossal scale in an experience that only Black Ops could deliver.”

“We’re excited to partner with Activision and Call of Duty in an even bigger way for fans this year,” said Todd Arata, SVP of brand marketing at Comcast, in a statement. “Xfinity is proud to offer our Internet customers this special opportunity to get in early and play what is no doubt one of the world’s most anticipated video games of the year, plus it reinforces our Internet speed and capabilities that maximize the gaming experience.”

For official rules and regulations, as well as a complete list of locations, visit xfinity.com/CallofDuty. Dates for the promotion vary by location.

This marks the second consecutive year Xfinity has partnered with Activision to provide its Internet customers with early access to one of the world’s best-selling video game franchises.