The second that the E3 show floor opened, a group of us rushed over to the Nintendo booth to play Super Mario Odyssey. It was Nintendo’s main attraction this year so we thought we’d get in early, but by the time we got there the Nintendo area already more resembled a mosh pit than a booth — it was packed almost shoulder to shoulder and difficult to move. We managed to spot a few Mario Odyssey stations and joined what could only generously be described as a line which was forming behind them.
A couple of hours later we were concerned. The line didn’t seem to be moving as fast as it should, so we started to count the number of people in front of us. There were twelve between us and the booths we were closest to, which wasn’t too bad considering the lines elsewhere. Twenty minutes later we did a head count again – there were fourteen in front of us now. People had been merging into the crowd from the sides to cut in line, which was hard to detect with how packed the whole area was and how little the lines were being enforced.
At 3:30pm we finally got a chance at the demo of Super Mario Odyssey, trying to pay attention to the game instead of our feet. We then returned to the Media room, unwilling to try lining up for any more of Nintendo’s games that day. There were only two and a half hours left of the day after all, so we might not make it to the next game.
This is the experience of many who attended E3 2017, the experimental E3 in which 15,000 members of the public were invited for the first time. I can’t say for certain whether the public should be around E3 in the future, but what I can say is this: the E3 show floor was not ready for it. They certainly made efforts to adjust — while passing by the Odyssey lines on the final day we noticed steel rods and red curtains defining very clear lines to the demo stations — but the adjustment needed to be wholesale and built into the planning for E3. Huge conventions like PAX manage thanks in part to a huge volunteer team of “enforcers” managing lines and keeping people up to date with what’s going on, as well as using auditoriums with capacity for thousands to accommodate things people want to see.
That’s not what E3 has ever been. If they want to transition from a trade show to a fan convention they’ll need to do a lot more preparation in the future, because having the layout of a trade show but the chaotic flow of a convention are a mix that I don’t think anyone would like to see again.