This Week in Gaming History: How E3 1995 changed gaming forever0 Comments
With E3 2015 just weeks away, speculation is already running wild as to what the various video game studios and console companies have up their sleeves for this annual spectacle. But, long before there were showy press conferences and game reveals that would rival a WWE WrestleMania introduction, E3 was but a fresh concept, first held on May 11-13, 1995.
A mere 50,000 people attended that very first E3 event, roughly equal to the number of people standing in line at the upper level coffee bar during the event these days. Major studio press conferences were held behind a simple podium and there was no internet to speak of, so gaming fans had to wait for most of the major news.
However, despite the lack of fanfare in comparison to the E3 events of today, this first annual E3 expo did more than launch the Super Bowl® of video game conventions, as the happenings within the event marked a shift of power in the video game industry.
A great deal of the buzz surrounding the show dealt with Sega's Saturn and Sony's new PlayStation console. Sega, fresh off a hot streak that saw them manage to go toe-to-toe with the once dominant Nintendo, was believed by some to have the hot hand coming in. There was some doubt that Sony would be able to make a dent in the video game market after so many other mainstream entertainment giants had failed, especially with the belief that the PlayStation would cost more than the Saturn at launch.
Eager to show up Sony and take advantage of the recent announcement that Nintendo would be delaying their much anticipated Ultra 64 (Nintendo 64) console until the next year, Sega's Tom Kalinske looked to throw a gut shot to the competition in the same manner that he'd used to bring the Sega Genesis to the forefront of a 16-bit console war nobody thought they stood a chance in.
When announcing the launch price of the Saturn at $399, it was revealed that the Sega Saturn would be jumping their own launch date of September 2 by stating that Saturn consoles had already been quietly shipped to select retailers are were available that same day.
Sony was next to the plate. During their press conference, Sony's Steve Race was brought to the podium to make an announcement about the PlayStation. Walking up slowly with a large folder assumed to contain the long speech he was prepared to make, Race simply placed his mouth near the podium microphone and uttered "$299." He then turned and quietly returned to his seat to a rousing ovation from those in attendance. Sony's new game console had undercut the Saturn by $100 when it had been expected to have the higher price point between the two.
The aftermath of Sega's attempt to one-up the competition also backfired at retail. Major store chains including Walmart, Best Buy and KayBee Toys were not informed of Sega's surprise launch, nor had they shipped any of the surprise launch consoles. These chains voiced their displeasure in terms of orders, including KayBee cutting the Saturn out of shelf space altogether.
The momentum from Sega's blunder, and Sony's simple yet effective announcement, carried over as the PlayStation quickly took control of the home console market while Sega began their slide to the back of the line in the retail console wars. Looking beyond the eventual sales figures from the two respective companies, these key events quickly cemented E3 as an event that can make or break a video game product, establishing the annual Los Angeles event as the place for companies and studios to bring out their big guns.
E3 2015 takes place this year from June 16-18. Be sure to keep up with G4@Syfygames throughout the event to see what it all means for the game companies hoping to make a splash this year.