Talk of it happening was in the air last year, and now it’s officially a thing: for the first time in E3 history, anyone can buy a ticket to the games industry’s grandest annual three-day show.
On your marks, get set, then bookmark February 13, because that’s when the Entertainment Software Association will put 15,000 tickets up for grabs. The first 1,000 takers can attend for $149, while the remaining 14,000 will have to shell out $249 for the privilege.
Last year’s E3 saw just north of 50,000 attendees amble through the Los Angeles convention center, its traditional venue.
Read more: E3 2016’s biggest games and revelations
Why open a trade show like E3 to the public? Because first of all, 15,000 game fanatics are probably going to pay $149 to $249 to go, so that’s money (some $3.6 million!) the event’s been leaving on the table. Two, the sort of attendees E3 exhibitors need to impress are increasingly the ones who’ll carry their experiences back to dedicated game forums and social media circles. (Yes, going public is partly the ESA experimenting, and we’ll see where this goes, but in theory, folding in the public is a natural extension of what the industry’s long been doing by way of increasingly direct engagement, platform by platform.)
And three, if it’s handled right–and I say again if–the upside for business and press attendees could be a reduction in what’s traditionally been a peripatetic spaghetti-works. Navigating E3’s chockablock show floors is an exercise in exercising anxiously. (Wait and see, all you 15,000 TBD, wait and see.) Last year, by contrast, I spent a fair bit of time in upper rooms and off-campus locations for games as big as Destiny and Dishonored 2. It was a welcome respite from the show floor tangle. Here’s hoping it becomes more the norm.