Refocusing discourse for a direct-to-audience rhetoric in E3 conferences. How game publishers are skipping the media and reaching out to gamers directly


The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is one of the biggest events centred on the electronic media industry. Until 2017, the expo was closed to the public, only allowing participation from industry professionals and the media, but the highlights of interest for the lay audience interested in entertainment media (i.e. video games) have always been what are generally referred to as the press conferences of the biggest video game producers and distributors (such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo etc.), which have mostly been broadcast live for the last decade. These conferences have changed in time from small affairs involving a spokesperson and some journalists to big stage shows, with high production values, where companies present their future products and strategies for the following year.

Because of the ability to directly access the consumer audience via digital technologies, the rhetoric of the discourse in E3 presentations have been refocused from attracting and persuading the media, and directing the media’s language towards desired outcomes, to directly reaching out to and persuading consumers. Recent developments on the global stage, such as the spread of the coronavirus, have also made an argument for the move towards more technology mediated communication skipping the intermediation of journalists, as many industry events (e.g. MWC, GDC) have been postponed or cancelled at great costs.

This research examines the discourse of the press conferences of the main video game developers present at E3 for the last decade to identify the evolution of firm generated content, as opposed to media generated content. Automated content analysis has been applied on about 4500 minutes (75 hours) of transcribed video, representing all the E3 press conferences from the period of 2009-2019, to identify the language, topics, themes and terms used by video game producers throughout this period. The analysis also looks at the data longitudinally to observe how the discourse has changed and if there is a marked evolution from addressing journalists as intermediaries on the way to the final audience, to directly addressing consumers.

Preliminary results show important differences from company to company, and from year to year, but an inconsistent evolution, with the rhetoric also being defined by other external factors such as changes in the industry or changes in console generation which require a different approach in communication strategy.