E3 17: FLUID, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LA
When Fluid launched over two decades a go, we were lucky enough to win creative strategy and key art briefs from international game publishers all over the world without much drama.
Then games got super big and the money pool grew enough that everyone could jump in. This made stuff more fun! More challenging, noisier and more exciting- it also meant that for a time, we had to loosen our grip on some of the corner-stone campaign briefs we had enjoyed winning routinely, whilst other creative crack-teams (particularly State side) had their bout in the lime-light- and rightly so.
Recently though, we decided it was our time again and began work to re-plant our flag back in the now well trodden greens of American AAA creative strategy.
A couple of months and a burnt candle-end later we had won key pitches from San Fran, LA, New York and even Montreal. This could only mean one thing this year: E3.
The event is a huge red-tape, snipped in unison by the world's biggest publishers as they unveil their key new properties to the world.
E3 (for those who reside on the Galapagos) is one of the biggest events in the game industry. Traditionally used as a platform to announce new slates for upcoming financial years, the event serves as a huge red-tape, snipped in unison by the world's biggest publishers as they unveil their key new properties to the press and thus, world.
This year, as well as the usual industry suspects- 15 thousand fan visitors came a long. This made things interesting.
Never ones to mask a blemish nor be too modest, we offer our gonzo-esque commentary of our trip to LA. From our favourite new games, gunshots at the OK Corral motel and BBQ ribs so good they make you want to vote for Trump.
Ribs and Calamari from this place tasted like a cardiac event in the making.
Nick (Comms manager, author) and James (creative director, absent) were the appointed ambassadors. Nick (I) hates flying and was boring all with this fact in the months up to the show. However, a beautifully equipped plane and a small apothecary stuffed in my pocket had sent me off to slumber while James duelled to no notable success with the extended elbow of his sizeable seat-neighbour. This situation held out for 11 hours. Also watched Girl on the Train- on the plane, we wouldn't recommend it.
Having landed we had two days to the show, one day before our first meeting and some very important down time to squeeze in. We hit Venice beach and gorged on our ever first Bubba Gump's- this we do recommend. Ribs and Calamari from this place tasted like a cardiac event in the making. This was a welcome weapon in fighting off that low burning hunger only arduous travel creates.
Venice beach is what happens when civilisation is given too much fun, sun and sand and left to it's own devices. Very little clothes, great sights, sounds, smells and generally wall to wall joyousness. Also some good effort crazies- one guy riding the promenade with a bike basket full of chihuahuas and a boom box full off Baha men. (A stark contrast to his stone-cold expression and pin-stripe three-piece).
Business Day 1
The Californian exuberance is strong in Hollywood, it's genuine. We were left feeling we could learn something.
The following day took us to Hollywood to meet some movie clients. A side from the inherent coolness of having a backstage pass to the whole of Universal (while filming), there is only one detail we can and feel compelled to share about this day. Meeting one took place in the Die Hard building! Yippie kye-aye Muh' fucker. The Californian exuberance is strong in Hollywood, it's not a cliche and in-fact feels genuine, warm and inviting- compared to the often curt self-hurriedness of London and the UK, it's a beautiful thing. We were ready to take the mick, we were left feeling we could learn something.
What was lovely, was to see our work for MvC Universe lining the boulevards.
Show Day 1
What struck us though was the compactness. it was refreshing not having to travel 1000 hectares to the next latte.
Since we are super smart we had been the day before to get our badge, at which point we asked for a map. The (not particularly keen) event staff told us they weren't ready yet. They weren't ready the morning of day 1 either, this naturally threw us a bit. We sought to solve this by paying to connect to the event wifi. Having paid the 20 dollars- that didn't work either. Hot tip? Don't expect the venue to help much.
In spite of the early set backs all meetings bar one were attended. What struck us though was the compactness of the event. We knew we were visiting a show that was tackling challenges and repositioning to do this, so we weren't perturbed- in fact it was hugely refreshing not having to travel 1000 hectares to the next latte. We also made good use of the upstairs meetings rooms, a layout choice other shows should be lead by!
We saw lots of Playstation, Bandai and others.. so far three games had firmly raised their head above pulpit.
Games of the Day:
Show Day 2
Anyone there for strictly business needs to work in time tolerances.
James' day started interestingly as he turned on the local news to learn a car had been shot at a couple of blocks down from our motel (which was very much in Downtown LA). This gave some context to the relentless un-firework like popping sound we heard whilst smoking a late night cigarette in the car park the night before.
It also meant that when James retired to bed before me, he was effectively leaving me to either join or fend off the Mob-Pirus that were apparently hanging about nearby. (This could all be British sensationalism, we definitely heard something but who knows what).
Our sched was lighter than the day before and we were thankful. We spent time with SEGA, Relic and Capcom to name a few. It was becoming apparent that the extra thick layer of visitors on top of the usual pudding was a bit too much at points. Queues snaked for everything and schedules seemed affected by the demands of the burgeoning crowds. Not saying it's a bad thing! But anyone there for strictly business needs to work in tolerances, because the fans will test them a bit when you are under time pressure! (If we weren't lucky enough to be there for biz, we might be as fans ourselves though- so we got over it promptly).
Games of the Day? Easy...
Shadow of War
We walked 40 miles in three days, picked up two briefs, made about 30 outstanding new contacts and smoked way too many cigarettes. Success
At this point it became apparent that this show is not a long one. Having started at 12pm on Tuesday, we now had until just 2pm today if we were going to make our flight.
Hot tip? Get a flight back the day after the last day if you have come a long way and want to get the most biz time possible.
We did however have some time to spend Warner Bros, Ubisoft and some others- and we were happy to not to be pushing ourselves too much with a 24 hour journey looming large over our future. Sadly, the frantic nature of the show once again meant we couldn't do all the booked meetings. This was a shame, but it did give us a chance to skulk around a few stands and we are glad we did! The event had a few hidden nooks that would have gone unexplored where it not for us venturing a little.
Hot tip? Definitely give yourself some walking around time, there are loads of halls and walkways peppered with rooms and industry bods- unlike some other shows, they aren't all obvious.
The journey back took about 24 hours. Nothing quite describes getting back on your sofa after being 5000 thousands miles from it for work purposes. We had walked 40 miles in three days, picked up two briefs to get working on immediately, made about 30 outstanding new contacts, saw all of our old mates and smoked way too many cigarettes. This meant success.
Until next year- it was time to rest.
Games of the last day? Another easy one, for me-
Far Cry 5
Star Wars Battlefront 2