E3 has been an environment that has increasingly catered to a YouTube audience, but companies like EA are struggling with figuring out how to use those personalities correctly. For the sake of everyone watching these press conferences at home, I hope it gets better.
The problem isn’t that EA flew out a bunch of YouTube creators and influencers to help get the word out about these games — it’s EA’s job to publicize its games, and YouTube’s influence was always going to be a big part of that — but rather the fact that EA mistook its personalities for on-air talent. That’s a completely different skill than streaming or creating videos, which means EA paid a lot of money to try to stuff a square peg into a round hole.
EA paid for the time of people who gained millions of followers based on their personality and put them in a situation where it was nearly impossible for them to show any personality.
And it went wrong. A few times. Keeping your grace in a live environment when things get fouled up, and things are always going to foul up, is why paying for presenters is a thing people do. Take, for instance, Jesse Wellens.
Wellens’ YouTube channel, complete with over 10 million subscribers, says the following to describe his content:
Crazy Pranks. Pranking Couple. Public Prank.
If you’re paying top dollar to get this guy out there, and it seems like EA made a substantial investment in paying YouTubers to spread the good word, why not focus on what he does well instead of using him to introduce a game? Wellens’ audience isn’t likely to be watching EA’s press conference, which makes me think that a good percentage of the audience was as confused as I was, and this doesn’t do much to cater to his existing audience.
This scripted nature of the presentation, combined with people famous for being on YouTube, made for some stilted moments.
EA Play teleprompter makin me lol pic.twitter.com/4URHbneHkS— Ben Silverman (@ben_silverman) June 10, 2017
No one can make that script work, but if you’re paying people to be in love with something, at least try to focus on people who know how to convey that they’re in love with something.
EA made a big play for influencers without understanding why these people have an audience, and the result was a limp show that didn’t land nearly as well as these games deserved. The goal was to show what looked like good games with a lot of buzz in a good light, and the talent brought in from YouTube was more of a distraction than a draw.
The livestreams, tweets and access of the YouTubers who were paid to attend are going to work for EA, but using them so extensively in the press conference itself was ill-advised. Which brings us to the next point ...
You can’t just jump to a livestream
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 was likely the biggest draw of EA’s press event, but the publisher spent the majority of its time on a stream of the game being played live, with semi-scripted live commentary layered on top. That’s a nearly impossible job for anyone, especially if you don’t already know the game inside and out.
The game wasn’t set up, we weren’t given a well-edited video that explained what did and didn’t work about the last game before showing us what was being fixed for the sequel, we were expected to keep up with a live presentation of a game we were mostly seeing for the first time. The result was a boring, often confusing stream that left many viewers cold.
Dang @EA flew in and gave 300 influencers swag bags with @WatchMixer goodies thank you! #eaplay pic.twitter.com/iU6npfcE1m— NukemDukem @ EA Play (@NukemDukemz) June 9, 2017
“In essence, if your game's context isn't promptly self-explanatory, it'd better be fun to look at,” Jordan Mallory astutely pointed out at Waypoint. “That's not the case with most shooters, and it wasn't the case with the Battlefront 2 fauxsports presentation. As a viewer who has never played this unreleased game, I have no vocabulary for what the challenges of this mode are, why the different classes have the advantages they do, what the specific parts of the map look like from the ground, etc. All I'm getting out of this is a bunch of quick cuts between identical robots and spaceships flying around each other in ineffectual circles.”
Again, EA is opening the wallet to streamers already, so let them do their thing on their own channels. That’s what they’re good at! But the people watching the press conference live expect news of these games and at least some clarity into what the game is offering. iJustine telling me something sounds really exciting during awkwardly scripted banter laid over live play is the worst of both worlds, and it’s not her fault. EA just didn’t understand how to best use the professionals they had hired. Everyone did the best with they could with what they were given.
Game companies can’t ignore YouTube or the hope of reaching a broader audience, but if you don’t understand what the talent they’re paying can and can’t do well and plan accordingly ... it’s going to be awkward.