The Entertainment Software Association has transformed E3 2021 into a game, and it’s a bad one.
The E3 2021 Portal launched online for members of the press on June 7, 2021. The gamified interface has nary a feature that hasn’t been done better elsewhere. Why drop a confusing digital business card on Square Enix’s nonexistent booth when you can just email somebody yourself?
Even after a year-long delay, E3 2021’s mobile app still manages to underwhelm and disappoint. Like Cyberpunk 2077, E3 2021 was released too early, is full of glitches, and fails to meet already low expectations for this year’s digital event. E3 2021 is the worst game of the year so far. And it shan’t be beaten.
A Bad First Impression
The first thing that you see when you sign into the E3 app is a character creator, like this an RPG or something. The whole process feels like a discount Picrew because most options are horrifying in their own unique way. As a bearded man myself, I was appalled by how terrible every single beard choice was. They don’t look good, so why even include this in the first place? Black Desert Online this is not.
Once you’re in, you can see all of the booths and events going on, but during the media days, the landscape is barren. Individual booths function as little more than a modified social media bio page, listing upcoming products, events, articles about the booth owner and their games, the vast majority of which are already publicly available elsewhere.
On day 1 of E3, many of these booths have little to no information yet.
Media was promised an interface “to help credentialed media gain early access and connect directly with E3 exhibitors.” In reality, all you can do is view publisher booths, most of which don’t even feature any games, trailers, fact sheets, or events as their big titles aren’t revealed.
Other than that, you can “drop a business card” which seems to glitch every time. You can send messages to developers, none of whom seem to respond. The one thing you can do is participate in the gamified elements of the service. They’re about as fun as filing papers in a cabinet while someone chews loudly nearby.
Players can earn points and badges by interacting with booths and doing things like watching a trailer for a game. (Don’t worry — none of the very few trailers available on the platform appear to be exclusive in any way.) Unfortunately, these are organized quite poorly. There isn’t an easy way to see which objectives you’re working towards when you’re in a given booth. The UI is terrible! As media, these features offer little in the way of value, especially when the rewards are cosmetic badges.
Servers frequently disconnect, which results in a display of some kind of modified Battlefield 3 image from “DesktopBackground.org.” Other various errors don’t offer much in the way of support either. All of these issues combine to make one’s first impression of E3 2021 terrible, and the experience never fully recovers.
Why is this Early Access?
For media, E3 2021 feels like a very bad early access experience. ESA made lots of promises, but none of them have been fulfilled. E3 2021 is digital-only this year, and this poor experience leaves one yearning for the days of physical media and soggy sandwiches eaten on the floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Like any games-as-a-service title, it’s frequently being updated by the ESA to add new content. But rather than starting from a solid base and expanding from there, the June 7 launch slate is paltry. E3 2021 remains unfinished, and it feels like a slap in the face to early adopters trying to cover what somehow remains a highly anticipated event.
The ESA and its partners are holding all of the best content for post-launch, so early adopters are stuck with a paltry experience that makes us question why it was released in this state. It’s No Man’s Sky all over again, only E3 2021’s recovery will be much weaker.
Gmail does E3 better than E3 when it comes to connecting game developers with media. For casual fans, booths are a novelty but you won’t miss anything by watching it all on YouTube or Twitch. In fact, those platforms will also give you access to non-E3 affiliated events, like Summer of Games and Tribeca! So what’s the point of even playing?
There just doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for anybody to use the E3 portal, particularly when compared to its competitors. That’s a death sentence for anything related to the games industry.
Like any good multiplayer experience, the E3 app is better with friends. Chatting in forums like it’s 2003 or just scouring social media for the wild reactions to this app was significantly better than the app itself. I wish I could say that E3 2021 is so bad it’s good, but in reality, its ineptitude is just sad. For one of the biggest events in a nearly 200 billion-dollar industry, the production values are shockingly low.
After taking a year off, E3 2021 could’ve come out swinging and been one of the best things to happen in the video game industry this year. Barring some massive overhauls to the E3 Portal and/or some utterly shocking announcements, the ESA has managed to turn E3 into a game, and a terrible one at that. 2/10.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: When it comes to video games, Inverse values a few qualities that other sites may not. For instance, we care about hours over money. Many new AAA games have similar costs, which is why we value the experience of playing more than price comparisons. We don’t value grinding and fetch quests as much as games that make the most out of every level. We also care about the in-game narrative more than most. If the world of a video game is rich enough to foster sociological theories about its government and character backstories, it’s a game we won’t be able to stop thinking about, no matter its price or popularity. We won’t punch down. We won’t evaluate an indie game in the same way we will evaluate a AAA game that’s produced by a team of thousands. We review games based on what’s available in our consoles at the time. For instance, we won’t hold it against a video game if its online mode isn’t perfect at launch. And finally, we have very little tolerance for junk science. (Magic is always OK.)