So you run a gaming web site. You have a decent following, land some big exclusives (even if no one believes you) and good traffic and while you’re not an internet celebrity, you are willing to travel halfway across the country (or further) on your own time and dollar to cover the latest and greatest games for your readers. But even after building a network of contacts, you’ll simply be shut out by the biggest companies, even lied to. Coverage of the expo’s biggest events are ruled by an exclusive few, an inner circle – the IGNs, the GameTrailers and the Giant Bombs – and everyone else is shut out entirely. Unless you’re in the business of covering indie titles by small developers, gaming journalism boils down to being in an established circle of friends – the touted 300-400 full-time gaming journalists that this industry can support – having a lot of financial backing to kick your way in or being a major news outlet like ABC or Fox News. If you’re not any of those, you’re iced out of coverage at the highest tiers. Let me explain how getting your gaming site into E3 works.
Step 1. You Start Getting Appointments, But Only After A Bunch Of Faff
The first year you come to E3 as a media outlet, you’re out to get business cards and make contacts. Your conversations with Microsoft, 2K and EA will usually look like this:
You: “Hi, I want to have a permanent contact with your company so we can cover your games. Our traffic is <admirable number> and <other qualifying remarks>.”
PR: “That’s cute.” (hands you a business card with a “[email protected]” e-mail address on it or “press.gamecompany.com”)
You: “Yeah, I’ve already done that, then dug through your web site and Google to find all the other e-mail accounts you have.”
PR: “Just e-mail them again, they’ll get back to you and we’ll take care of you.”
And then they don’t. So you find someone or know someone who knows someone and you manage to get some e-mails out to the right people. Over the next year, you set up appointments for the next E3. You’re going to count on all of them and plan your day around them. Despite the effort, some publishers don’t really care, but I’ll explain that in a bit. You’ll also get a lot of e-mails back about how review copies are restricted for games you want to review (because your site’s not worthy, obviously) while some random fool on YouTube gets one inexplicably. What?
In the lead-up to E3, we were told by Microsoft that there wouldn’t be any behind-the-scenes booth tours, no appointments to book to see games and because they were being dodgy in their answers, we didn’t even know what they were unveiling – even under embargo – to see these games in advance. How do you get an appointment for a game you don’t know exists? Ubisoft said their press conference was full and we would be notified if space became available.
So you book the appointments you can with some great publishers like Deep Silver and other independent studios, you book the hotel and you make it to Los Angeles. Then what happens?