Big, loud, willy-waving press conferences have been a staple of the video games news cycle for at least the last ten years. Previous to that, press conferences at events like E3 and Gamescom (which is happening this week in Germany) were rather low-key, catering to the small number of investors, potential investors and press in the room. Since the advent of online video streaming, though, video game press conferences morphed into these giant, celebrity-studded, tightly-managed mega-entertainment shows, broadcast across the world and to hundreds (if not thousands) or people in huge arenas.
Things are changing, though. This year's Gamescom had no big press conferences; four or five years ago, you'd have Ubisoft, Microsoft, Activision, EA and Sony all putting on a show. E3's big press conferences are still very loud and expensive, but there is less importance placed on them when any company can theoretically stream anything it wants live to fans at any point. Games news and announcements used to be concentrated at these big events, where the eyes of the world were upon them. Now, they can happen anytime - and without relying on the press as a way to get the word out.
In an interview with Eurogamer following EA's Gamescom livestream - which had no announcements, but lots of meandering chat and gameplay - EA executive Peter Moore summed up the situation from a publisher's perspective.
"I'm not too sure, that press conferences have a future. Let me make a radical statement - what you see here [gestures to EA booth around], which is full, is a combination of our key customers, digital, retail, probably 40 per cent influencers. Our EA lounge here... used to look like an IKEA showroom but, like EA Play, it's indicative of how we see the future. The medium is changing. Influencers, celebrities who aren't the classic journalists are finding their own way. Our job is to put the games in their hands like we did last night."
Sign of the times. I'd argue that press conferences - and indeed the press - are both useful when it comes to sifting through the vast reams of information and video that hundreds of developers and publishers produce every week. Publishers might be turning towards "influencers", perhaps because they are themselves more easily influenced, but people still turn to a much wider variety of different sources for news and opinion on video games. Press conferences, bombastic and expensive though they are, can help to focus people's attention.