This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is right around the corner. E3 is the biggest event in gaming and held annually to showcase what developers have been up to and what sort of things to expect over the following year. They strive to outdo themselves every year and this year is no different. With hype over new conferences, new announcements, and surprise releases. But, how did it all start and what propelled it to the heights it has reached? Let’s take a look at the history of E3.
There is a bit we need to know to get into the history of E3. The Expo actually first started in 1995, but before that there was the Consumer Electronics Expo (CES) which was held twice a year. CES was not specifically for video games but a trade show where you got to see the latest in innovation for ALL electronics including phones, stereos, appliances, car equipment, and more. The people who ran the convention did not think much at all about video games and did not care and set them way away from the main convention either in offsite tents or with the pornography section. Read that last sentence again. Offsite or with the porn. CES cared more about its porn than it did video games. Despite this, it is still where the industry came to make big announcements.
This is where the real history of E3 starts. In the early 90’s there was a large backlash towards the gaming industry do to violence and sexual content and the worry over this content being easily accessible to children. There was a massive Senate hearing culminating in the Video Games Rating Act of 1994. This resulted in a series of several meetings where the various companies in the gaming industry had to work out some sort of regulatory system or the government would step in and do it for them. Eventually the companies worked out the details forming the Interactive Digital Software Association (now the Entertainment Software Association or ESA) which would represent the entire industry and came to back to Congress with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) at the end of that year.
This turn of events gave the industry its own trade group. Fed up with the its treatment at CES and with its growing market, it was decided. The industry needed its own trade show. This was the creation of E3. The first expo dedicated solely to gaming.
This was the era of SEGA vs Nintendo and where the history of E3 almost ended. When the IDSA announced plans to start its own trade show SEGA announced immediate support. This led Nintendo to continue supporting CES. However, SEGA held a bit more clout in the industry and E3 was announced. Nintendo eventually had no choice but to sign on. Every other company in the industry began signing on to the new show. This was due to its aforementioned treatment at CES and desire to break into its own.
This was a huge event right from the start and the very first year the show had over 50,000 attendees. Attendance continued to peek to about 75,000. This caused them to begin putting a cap on the number of people able to attend. Even if the numbers dropped of (by force and not choice) the excitement has never slowed. And as they say, the rest is history… the history of E3.