PC Gamer and a small army of sponsors put on E3's first ever PC Gaming Show last night. It was a long-needed addition to an already packed E3 conference schedule; a place for the PC platform to take center stage rather than being a second thought in the midst of hype for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo's console efforts.
It was also kind of a disaster.
Maybe that's to be expected for the first try at a new show, but consensus among a lot of viewers seemed to be that the passion of PC gaming deserved to be better represented on the stage at E3. I agree, and I've got some ideas for how they can properly pull it off next time.
1. For the love of god, make it shorter
Sony has held the top honors for having a yearly press conference that often runs quite a bit longer than necessary. Until now.
The PC Gaming Show ran damn near two and a half hours. At the beginning, host Sean "Day9" Plott joked that they had invited a ton of people to present at the show, and no one had turned them down. By the end, I completely believed it.
I don't necessarily think that the PC Gaming Show needs to invite fewer presenters next year. But it absolutely needs to be a tighter, snappier presentation on the whole if it doesn't want its audience dozing off as it enters into hour two.
2. Keep Day9
Speaking of that host for the evening, Day9 was honestly one of the best parts of the PC Gaming Show. He's a funny, charismatic guy, and he built a good vibe with the developers on stage without much work. He's also a well-established and respected name in the PC gaming community.
Whatever lessons PC Gamer and its partners take from the night's failures and successes, I hope they don't lay any of the blame at Day9's feet. He wasn't the problem. He just needs better material to work with.
3. Emphasize the need for actual announcements
I don't even think every dev on stage needs to have a groundbreaking announcement. It doesn't need to be a nonstop cavalcade of new games and release date reveals. But, as an example, the PC Gaming Show gave lengthy slots to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Hitman so that Square Enix could ... repeat the exact same talking points it had already discussed at its press conference earlier in the day. As great as those games might look, and as much as they belong in the PC gaming conversation, that was a waste of everyone's time.
Again, I don't think the "news" coming out of these appearances needs to be massive. Consider ArenaNet, who popped on stage for a bit to talk about the new guild halls feature for the upcoming Guild Wars 2 expansion pack, Heart of Thorns.
This was a relatively tiny reveal — one admittedly fairly deep feature for an already announced expansion pack — but at least it was new information. If every presenter on stage had something fresh to show for their games, I suspect the show would have moved along much faster.
4. Limit the buzzword-laden tech talk as much as possible
Listen, I get it. AMD was a sponsor. They're one of the reasons the PC Gaming Show happened and, indeed, one of the main companies supporting the continued existence of PC gaming as a thing. But maybe giving them two full segments, most of which was devoted to new cards they had already announced, was a bit much?
This wasn't just an issue with AMD. Other presentations, such as the aforementioned one for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, obsessed over tech and buzzwords to help push how much better these games would run on PC as compared to consoles.
I know there are people who are into that, and I realize that weird superiority complex thing is a big part of the PC gaming community. But for the average audience watching, for anyone who might be looking to get into PC gaming or trying to understand what's so special about it, this stuff is a complete non-starter.
Even for the average PC gamer, it's liable to induce a nap.
5. More live demos, less pretending to be a talk show
The PC Gaming Show was set up as a sort of mock talk show, with Day9 sitting behind a desk and his endless parade of "guests" taking questions from the couch next to him. Often, they took these questions while a quiet demo or trailer of the game was played on the screen behind them.
At a few bright points throughout the show, some devs actually did a live demo on stage. These were some of the most interesting moments, and they proved my initial thought upon seeing the talk show setup: Couldn't Day9 ask these same questions in a much more interesting setting if they were playing a live demo?
As stated above, I liked Day9's approach. I liked his back-and-forth with the guests. All I needed was for those conversations to be a little shorter or a little more interesting to look at. Live demos can fulfill both of those requirements.
Polygon Supercut: The most awkward moments from the PC Gaming Show
I really want the PC Gaming Show to continue into 2016 and beyond. By all accounts, from PC Gamer staffers on Twitter to developers who appeared on stage, it seems that everyone is planning for that to be the case. I just also hope that they can improve, whether that's from some of the suggestions I've mentioned above or other ideas that I haven't imagined.
I've been heavily invested in PC gaming since the age of 13. I love it, and I want others to be able to understand why I love it, and I want all sorts of new reasons to fall in love all over again. I hope that the PC Gaming Show can make this happen.