The Electronic Entertainment Expo is around the corner, and in its second year of opening its doors to the public, E3 is still going through some growing pains.

“This year, it’s going to be more evolutionary than revolutionary,” said Mat Piscatella, an analyst for NPD, to AListDaily.

“E3 is becoming a hub for a lot of media activity, but right now they’re realizing that they need to evolve,” added Carter Rogers, research manager at SuperData. “They’re trying to be more like PAX, more like Gamescom.”

From Media To Gamers

Ths show is finding its footing as a consumer-facing event after a shaky start last year, Piscatella predicts.

“I felt really bad for the fans that came out last year and put down all that money to stand in those lines and have that experience,” he said about the 2017 show. “E3 is becoming more and more of a fan show, and eventually it’ll go that way—like what happened with Gamescom. That feels like the right way for it to go.”

This shift toward fan engagement is further pushing game publishers to change up their pre-E3 strategy.

“The methods of communication are changing quite a bit. All the big announcements happen leading up to the show, with the show itself being more of an interview/showcase, especially with the fans and influencers on the floor,” Piscatella added. “Companies are shifting focus so they’re talking to those people as much as they’re talking to traditional press outlets.”

However, Rogers predicts that the shifting audience will prove the fundamental building blocks of the show solid.

“I don’t see huge change in how they’re presenting demos now,” Rogers clarified. “They’re still going to want people in the public to have a good experience, the same as you would with someone in the press.”

Publishers Focus On Offsite Events

As more people crowd into the LA Convention Center for the show, many of the larger publishers like EA and Microsoft are crowding out of it.

“Triple-A publishers are going to continue to move away from the event itself,” Rogers predicts.

“The big publishers are moving offsite because they can control the message and put on fan events without getting lost in the shuffle of all these other games,” Piscatella added. “The best way to go is what Nintendo is doing with their Direct program, where they’re messaging folks multiple times throughout the year and not saving it all for one big E3 blowout.”

While this move serves their interests in the short term, analysts warn of the consequences for the identity of the show itself.

“They have to make sure that the fan event is still big enough to draw the press to LA, so it’s not just a bunch of separate companies doing their own offshoot events during the week of E3,” Rogers warned. “As that continues to happen and more companies pull away, they’re potentially going to say . . . ‘Why aren’t we doing this in August, when no one else is announcing anything?'”

If too many companies pull away and host their own conventions, like the Xbox FanFest, EA Play and BlizzCon, E3 may no longer be able to pull in mass media coverage like it once did.

“The one thing E3 does that’s difficult to do with a Direct-style format is that at E3 you get the big press outlets, the NBCs and the CNNs, doing segments about the show,” Piscatella claimed. “There’s still value in doing this big once-a-year blowout.”