This was my first year attending the Microsoft E3 Press Conference, and I’ll absolutely admit that it was everything of the spectacle that I had imagined. There were many awesome experiences and an overall magic that made it a unique event to attend, and that certainly had a huge impact on my overall opinion of its effectiveness. That being said, there were some major disappointments that surfaced after spending some time away from the glamour and glitz of the event. For me, attending the press conference at Microsoft Theater was absolutely a mixed bag of positives and negatives. The hype surrounding the event was definitely real, and I would absolutely recommend that someone attend at least once if given the opportunity — however, there are some things you should know.
Los Angeles is absolutely a different kind of hot. The heat is a dry and oppressive force that beats down on you, saps your lifeforce, and drains your ability to think straight and speak clearly. Trekking just a few blocks from your hotel or AirBnb will cause some serious mental damage and leave you tired and rundown if you don’t plan ahead and hydrate before the event. My breakfast of a Bloody Mary did not really cut it in terms of nutrition for the day, but I soldiered up and made it through. Also, I’d recommend dressing appropriately for both the heat of the day and the status of the event, with either a short sleeve button-up, light dress shirt, or t-shirt and thin blazer. Ditch the cosplay, gym wear, heavy shirts, ties, and thick dress jackets.
Getting there early is also really important to have the best time. Admission appears to be locked in by priority group, seemingly based on Microsoft’s perceived level of status of the attendee. Our media level was actually in the second-tier group below the development teams and large mainstream press, so we got in fairly early and ahead of a number of other groups that had arrived before us. It’s really humbling to be surrounded by fellow influencers and media members, so take this time to connect with those around you and get a greater understanding of the audience at the press conference.
Once entry for the event begins, the Microsoft theater essentially becomes a free for all, as seats are first come, first serve once you are allowed into the building. Big industry names have reserved seats with their names on them in the first ten rows, but anyone else can sit wherever they would like after that. If you want, you can walk right up to the stage and take some up-close-and-personal pictures, but it’s best to scope out a good seat, then grab it quickly before the masses descend upon you. Naturally, we rushed the first few open rows and ended up sitting right in the middle — two rows back from the devs — and that made for a much more immersive experience.
Once the show starts, you are in it for the long haul. There are no breaks or intermissions, so prepare to make sure that you don’t have to leave for any reason. The conference moves quickly and smoothly from trailer to trailer, so getting up could also waste valuable time. There is no food or drink provided by Microsoft or in the general area during the wait time or the presentation, so plan ahead. A few people around us brought water and drinks into the event, so that may be worth trying.
The actual event itself is very much a Hollywood production, with glamour, glitz, hype, and celebrity status. Everyone knows that the actual presentation could be live-streamed at home through any device, and that there really isn’t anything extra to be gained from attending, but there is something to be said about physically being present in the room and experiencing the event in a new way. Being feet away from Phil Spencer, feeling the heat of the in-theater pyrotechnics, hearing the boom of the stereo speakers, and basking in the glory of Keanu Reeves all magnifies the impact of the presentation, and makes you viscerally connect with the Microsoft lineup and brand in a way that cannot be felt on a screen millions of miles away. The press conference is totally a stage performance in every form of the word, and is absolutely best enjoyed as such, so bask in the green neon lights and prepare to be enraptured by the incoming news.
The actual event itself is very much-so a Hollywood production with its glamour, glitz, hype, and celebrity status
After about two hours, the Microsoft conference will be over as quickly as it started, and soon you will be funneled out of the theater and back into the sweltering heat outside. There will be a brief glimpse of the Xbox merch that will be on sale during E3 itself, and perhaps a few other items that have been set up a bit early, but besides that there is not really much else to do in the area. Take a few photo ops in front of the event, look longingly the empty stage, and head to the Yardhouse a few buildings down for a well deserved adult beverage.
After attending the Microsoft E3 press conference, I came to the strange realization that when revisiting the event with coworkers who watched at home, I noticed that there was a huge difference in the way that we viewed its overall effectiveness. For the most part, a number of my co-writers felt apathetic about Microsoft’s offerings, and didn’t feel as connected as I did to the media releases. They found some of announcements to be boring and unnecessary, and felt that some of the press conference was cringe-worthy and contrived; however, I was wholly on-board with everything that I was shown.
Obviously, the event is designed to elicit this kind of response from the press by ‘wow-ing’ them into creating some big noise on the internet about upcoming releases and hype up the effectiveness of the event. Just like every other company, Microsoft’s main goal is to be declared the “winner of E3,” and orchestrating an elaborate and glamorous press conference is absolutely a part of a strategy to meet that end. As a member of the press, it’s a little uncomfortable to consider that my opinions can be swayed so heavily by the extravagance of such an event, but it certainly is in the realm of possibility, and probably evidenced by the abundant enthusiasm of thousands of blog posts and vlogs all over the net. This doesn’t mean that positive reviews are cheaply earned by the gaming giant, but rather that attending their show certainly creates a heightened level of interest. It’s important to consider this bias to maintain relatively impartial journalistic values.
Overall, the Microsoft E3 press conference is a must-attend event that can both greatly entertain and offer a greater insight into how the industry works. Although you can always watch from home, there is a magic in being there and experiencing a surprising reveal with hundreds of other like-minded fans. Unlike some other companies, Microsoft has (for the most part) the art of the press conference down to a perfected science, so be prepared for some industry magic. If you are lucky enough to get the invite, jump at the chance and live it up. Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll see you out there too.