Disney Interactive and Wargaming to E3: Game Over

Sony and Microsoft booths at E3 2015
Sony and Microsoft booths at E3 2015
Photo by Chris Morris

E3, the video game’s flagship trade show, seems to have an exodus on its hands.

Two more studios have announced they plan to bypass the show this year, bringing the grand total to four. Disney Interactive (DIS) and Wargaming have both decided against attending this year’s event, following similar announcements by Activision earlier this week and Electronic Arts in late January.

EA (EA) and Activision (ATVI) are the industry’s two largest independent publishers. And while Disney and Wargaming are not quite on that level, they’re still major forces in the gaming world. And, at this point, the industry is wondering if more drop-outs are coming.

For more read: EA Drops Out of E3

At issue, apparently, is E3’s closed door policy. The show has historically been only open to industry trade, media and buyers. More and more, publishers prefer to show their games directly to fans, rather than through the filter of news sites—particularly enthusiast news sites, which are sometimes hyper critical of their product. This year’s show will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 14-16.

Also at issue is the show’s traditional focus on big games. While E3 has attempted to heighten the emphasis on mobile and free-to-play games in recent years, the bigger titles still tend to receive the larger share of the spotlight.

“From a company perspective, we’re focusing a large majority of activities on events focused on our players and community,” said Wargaming in a statement. “From a strictly business perspective, E3 just doesn’t fit our current direction. It’s a show that is very centralized on retail product, and as a free to play digital download gaming company, we’ve realized that while the show may be a good fit for lots of other publishers and developers, it’s currently not a great fit for us.”

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John Vignocchi, vice president of production on Disney Infinity said on Twitter that the company, which just this week used YouTube to stream an announcement about what’s next for the series, plans to follow a similar path.

That’s becoming an increasingly popular option for publishers. Nintendo, for the past few years, has announced its new games via a Nintendo Direct online broadcast, rather than a traditional press conference. And it generally holds a public event during E3. (Nintendo has not made any announcements about the show yet.) EA, however, will hold its own open-to-the-public event, called EA Play, across the street from the Los Angeles Convention Center (and in London) before and during the early days of E3.

Like Activision and EA, Wargaming said that while it won’t attend the trade show, it remains a member of the Entertainment Software Association, the trade and lobbying organization that hosts E3.

For more on Activision’s bold new gaming strategy, watch our video.

“We appreciate all that the ESA does in their legislative efforts and their work to raise and discuss issues surrounding video gaming as an industry, hobby, and way of life,” said Wargaming.

The ESA indicated it was not worried about the loss of Disney and Wargaming.

“E3 is constantly evolving. For example, just three years ago there wasn’t a sizable virtual reality presence at E3 and barely any mobile or handheld games. Those companies and titles are now a significant element in the event,” said Rich Taylor, senior VP of communications for the ESA. “The event continues to break records on the number of international attendees who come to E3 every year to participate in the global launchpad for video game news and products. 2016 will be the same, including an event with a record number of press events in the works. In short, attendee registrations are surpassing where they were at this point last year. Interest from new exhibitors remains strong and we are in discussions with major exhibitors to take the floor space that is available. We look forward to seeing the world in Los Angeles in June.”
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