The massive media extravaganza that is the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is already under way for 2015, with press events beginning Sunday night and occupying all day Monday. The Expo floor itself opens from Tuesday through Thursday, with around 50,000 attendees expected to flood the show, taking in all the news and trying to get as close to the new games as possible. The amount of information being pushed out this week is immense, and then there’s all of the other information to be inferred at the show, as well as what you can learn from networking.

How do you sort through all of this information, evaluate it, and gain the insights you need to discern the direction of the industry, where the competition is headed, and what’s going to be important in gaming for the rest of 2015 and beyond Your needs will vary, but here are some solid guidelines to analyzing and gaining actionable insights from E3.

Follow the Money
Don’t be misled by the press releases coming from companies if you’re trying to figure out just how important a particular game is, or how innovative, or how central that game is to the company’s new releases. The simple rule is: Follow the money. Spending is a reliable guide to how important something is to a company. Ignore the rhetoric, count the dollar signs. Yes, yes, every game is great and fun and hopefully everyone will love it. But how much booth space and signage is devoted to the title If there’s just one or two screens and a small sign, that’s not the company’s marketing focus for the holidays. What’s the first game that you see when you come to the booth That’s the most important game for that company this fall.

The Play’s The Thing
So you’re trying to determine just how good an upcoming game will be – will it be a strong competitor to other games, or a disappointing also-ran One thing is for sure – you won’t be able to tell from the video alone. Yes, it looks good – but so does every other game. There may be an occasional video where a game doesn’t look good, and you can be pretty sure that game won’t do well if they can’t even make a compelling video. Otherwise, all those game trailers should be impressive. But what really matters, in the end, is how well the game plays.

Watching game play tells you more – and actually getting your own hands on it tells you even more. But that’s really not enough for a full evaluation of most games, because there are factors you won’t uncover until the game is completed and gone live. Several games from top publishers had sever problems last year, and some games were unplayable for days, weeks, or even months in some cases. Bottom line: Don’t judge a game’s sales potential solely on its video. A better assessment can be made when people have hands-on experience to report, and even that is not the same as the experience millions of consumers will have when the game launches. Don’t be too sure you know what game sales will be until some time after the game has launched.

The Experience Hardware Delivers Is Key
Don’t let yourself get too excited over the sleek design and high-powered specs of some new hardware. Those are good things, to be sure, and so is an affordable price. None of that will matter, though, if the hardware can’t deliver compelling experiences. Some of the best-selling consoles in the game business had a great start because of a strong software title. More recently, we’ve seen Wii U sales lag initially because the really great software for the console took time to arrive.

So when you look at new hardware, focus on what it delivers when you’re trying to evaluate how well it will sell. Are those experiences available, or promised for some time in the future How compelling are they, and are those experiences delivered on other platforms as well If the phrase “we can’t wait to see what developers will do with this!” is used, it means they haven’t actually seen anything compelling yet, but they are hopeful something will turn up. That may well happen… or it may not.

Value Is The Way To A Consumer’s Heart
Whether it’s a new game, a new piece of hardware, or a new service, one thing will always be true – consumers look for good value. That’s true whether a game is $60 or it’s free-to-play, whether you are asking people to subscribe to a service or buy into a new hardware platform. Remember that when you look at a new game – how many hours of game play do you get, and how intense is that experience Consumers these days have numerous choices on how to spend their time, from social media to streaming video to mobile games and more, all only a click away. All other things being equal, a game that delivers 100 hours of game play for $60 will be seen as a better value than a game that delivers 10 hours of game play for the same price.