june vs. Speed: E3 – Part 2

E3 is a highly anticipated event, that’s for sure.  Why?  Well because we get to see all the cool new demos of the games, and find out about what everyone has been working on in secrecy since the last E3.  News abound!  Tons of gaming coverage!  It’s like a week-long red carpet event for gaming.

…and it sucks the resources of these game companies like nobody’s business.

Let’s go through my interpretation of how a hypothetical company prepares for E3.  If they have a new game that they’re working on and it looks like they aren’t going to be ready for their awesome demo reel for E3, then they have to stop all other production work and cram cram cram to try and get the demo reel working.  After all, if they announce something the week after E3, no one is going to care, right?

I can speak with a little bit of background information on this because I work in the software industry, but certainly not for a game company — so I may be off base a little bit here, but I suspect not too far.

When you’re in the middle of working on something, then you’re in a zone.  Any kind of interruption to being in the zone can be very unsettling.  First, you have to wind yourself out of whatever frame of mind you were in, and then you have to jump to some new task, re-orient yourself with your new task, and try to get productive in that area.  For this argument, though, let’s say that you’re a super star and can hit the ground running in the new area with minimal interruption.  No time lost.

Next, you have to figure out what is causing the problem with the demo reel being ready in time?  Oh, it looks like there are some clipping issues with all the human character models where their arms end up traveling through crates under certain conditions.  Now, you have two choices: Figure out what is really wrong and apply the correct fix, or just get the damned thing working for the E3 demo reel (did I mention you’re on a deadline?  Guess which one your manager picks for you).

So now you spend six weeks slugging away on some kind of hack to the engine that is going to fix the problem specifically on the interactions of human character models and crates under that specific condition so that the recording of the E3 demo reel can proceed.  Congratulations, you’re the hero of the company, your demo reel is going to rule over all of E3.

What just happened to the deadline of your existing game?  You’re now an additional 6 weeks behind because all that time that you spent making the demo reel work is work that may or may not function properly in the main game engine.

That’s just what happens with the people half of the resources of the company in preparation for E3.  The other portion comes to the financial portion, which is the rental of space, hotel rooms, rental cars, airfare, meals and all kinds of other expenses for all the people.  Plus you’ll have to have computers to run the stuff, a booth of some kind, people who won’t be at the office because they’ll be out at E3, etc.  What is the financial outlay for all of those expenses, and would there be better ways that the money could have been spent?  Here’s a hint, that money doesn’t come from thin air — it’s eating out of the future profits of that company’s sales of the game they’re working on.

And those profits are what that studio is going to use to work on their next kick-ass franchise.  Personally, I would rather let the studios come out with the news, screenshots and demo reels when they are ready to release that information, and not build up a bunch of press for some trade show.

I’m not saying that E3 is the reason for this, but I have seen successful studios with game launches that have gone well go out of business for lack of financing — and I would much rather see those companies continue to make games.


Author: TimSpeedle View all posts by

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