How to Attend and Prepare for the Electronic Entertainment Expo

Every summer, the Electronic Software Associate presents the Electronic Entertainment Expo, affectionately known as E3. The premiere video game trade show, E3 is where both software and hardware companies announce the most droolworthy upcoming video games, consoles, and accessories to the media (and, over the last two years, streamed online).

While PAX and Gamescom are open to the public, the only way to get into E3 is by being part of the gaming industry, either as a creator, publisher/distributor, retail seller, or member of the media. This is because the video game industry follows in the footsteps of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), despite the ESA separating the event due to disagreements with CES showrunners.

Playstation Xbox E3 2015 Booths

E3 Registration

Registration for E3 is typically open during the first quarter of the year, though exact dates for each year can be found on the E3 website. Registration windows vary for industry attendees and media, and credentials must be submitted for either ticket type. While media credentials are free, attendee tickets cost $995 for a three-day pass.

If you happen to have a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket, you can also sponsor or exhibit at E3. Booth prices start anywhere from $10,000-$25,000 for a 10×10 space, with prices skyrocketing for large sponsored booths.

On top of the initial investment, many companies spend millions hiring celebrities and booth babes, hosting afterparties and press conferences in offsite venues, creating worthy swag to give attendees, and decorating their booth. Credentialing for sponsors and exhibitors is accomplished with money.

For more information on preparing a trade show exhibit, check out my article on Quicken’s Small Business Resource.

The below links will take you to the official E3 registration pages:

Register for E3 Media Credentials

Register for E3 Attendee Credentials

Apply to Exhibit at E3

E3 PC Gaming Show 2015

Attending E3 Press Conferences

E3 itself is a three-day event, though the events surrounding it extend it to nearly a full week. Traditionally a press conference day precedes E3, and 2015 saw so many press conferences that they started a day earlier and bled into day one.

These press conferences are invite-only, and are live-streamed by a variety of ESA media partners (sponsors). If you didn’t get an invite to the press conference, you can still show up and attempt to gain entry. Many members of the general public do so, and your E3 badge will typically get you in before them as long as you’re nice.

E3 Media Pass 2015

The E3 Badge

Tickets for E3 are sent via email, though all you need to pick it up is a photo ID. The actual entry ticket is a piece of paper in a lanyard. The lanyard is sponsored and often kept as a souvenir, which can be found and purchased on Ebay after the event.

The paper badge includes two bar codes, along with a QR code. Since all of this can be replicated, millions of gamers want in, and attendees routinely scalp their tickets for extra cash, an invisible watermark is also embedded on the badge.

Security at E3 is tight – blacklights are located at all entryways, and security has blacklight flashlights. In addition, to enter restricted areas, such as the media lounge, you’ll need to show both your badge and a photo ID, which must match the badge. With visitors from all over the country and world, security sees a lot of different forms of photo ID, so if you make a fake, make it good.

E3 Nintendo Booth Starfox Yoshi 2015

The E3 Show Floor

The main focus of E3 is the business of selling video games, and every company has flashy displays to draw gamers in to play (and either recommend or bulk-purchase) their games. In the main convention halls, huge displays are abundant, showcasing either exclusive footage or hands-on demos of every game mentioned in the press conferences.

Nearly every exhibitor gives out swag for playing the games. This swag includes early-access codes, in game rewards, game demos, shirts, hats, shoddy festival bags, buttons, pins, and a variety of assorted knick-knacks and toys. During the first two days, exhibitors are a bit stingy with the swag, though day three is known as the best day for quick swag grabs, as these companies don’t want to haul boxes of heavy junk back to headquarters to sit in a storage room.

Expect to wait in long lines at nearly every booth. The average wait time is around an hour or two before getting a chance to play big-budget, marquee titles for 15-30 minutes. With hardware like VR headsets and hologram glasses, an appointment is necessary. It’s important to reach out to video game companies beforehand to schedule appointments for any major tech or games.

Remember every major video game hardware and software developer has a PR company – find out who it is, and cc them in your email to the developer. Also, never send emails to a general department address. Search the name of senior marketing reps and execs on LinkedIn, and contact them individually. Be honest and genuine about who you are and why you’re attending – they’ll likely accommodate you.

In addition, E3 features an art gallery of video game-inspired artwork, along with hundreds of meeting rooms for companies to hold private sales and promotional meetings far removed from the glitz and glamour on the show floor.

E3 2015 Swag Buttons Pins Nintendo Bethesda

Offsite Events at E3

Since E3 is a trade show, the focus is on commerce. Like any convention, trade show, or expo, most business is handled after hours and offsite. On each night of the expo, at least a dozen afterparties are happening in venues all around the convention. During the day, sponsored lunches and happy hours can be found all around the venue.

Afterparties are invite-only, though many of these are easier to sneak into than the conference itself. These parties are often better than a regular club night, and often come with free food and drinks.

If you’re looking to turn up to 12 with beautiful people and celebrity acts, look for parties from the big-name companies like Microsoft and Bethesda. If you want to network within the industry, try the meet-and-greets, hosted lunches, happy hours, or even the offsite PC Gaming Show that started in 2015 and should continue in the future.

E3 2015 Banners at LA Live over Highway

What to Bring and Wear to E3

Food and drinks at the convention center are overpriced, but a variety of booths offer snacks and drinks. Sony’s press conference always includes free food trucks, and the lunch is provided for media and exhibitors. All other attendees will want to bring some snacks to avoid spending $10 on a slice of pizza.

Wear comfortable walking shoes, as the floor is huge and you’ll easily log 5-10 miles per day on your FitBit during E3. It’s summertime, so it’ll be hot outside, but the air conditioning inside the venue can get cool, so dress in easily removable layers for best results.

There’s no need for a backpack, as sponsored bags are provided in the hallways before entering the show floor, and many vendors give out bags. It’s very easy to overload on swag if you’re into free stuff.

Download the official E3 app to keep track of any appointments, as well as have a handy guide with you at all times. Though sponsors like Twitch, IGN, and YouTube provide video maps everywhere, you’ll need this app to know where you’re going, as the staff won’t know much. If you need directions to a hall, ask the staff, but you’re better off asking fellow attendees for directions to a specific booth.

Bring around $100 in cash to ensure you have enough for parking or any other incidentals that may come up. E3 is held in California, where it costs money to exist anywhere. At LA Live, parking starts at $20, and the surrounding lots can go as high as $100 by day two.

Though a video game convention, cosplay isn’t very popular among E3 attendees. You’re more likely to see someone wearing a Mario polo shirt than dressed up as Mario. Business suits are everywhere, and every exhibitor is wearing the team’s colors. You will see plenty of gaming characters, but they’re typically hired models being paid to do it, so save your Pikachu costume for ComicCon, PAX, or even EDC.


Brian Penny Beard Versability Harley Quinn Arkham KnightBrian Penny is a former operations manager and business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has been featured in Hardcore Droid, Fast Company, Main Street, Huffington Post, Gaiam, Intuit’s Small Business Resource, and BBC.

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

16 thoughts on “How to Attend and Prepare for the Electronic Entertainment Expo

  • May 17 at 11:23 am
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    Hello,

    Just a quick question, but am I right to assume that Media tickets are separate from attendee tickets? Hoping to register as part of the media for next year, but need to know exactly how much I need to bank into my piggy haha 😛

    Leon

    Reply
    • May 17 at 3:35 pm
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      Media tickets are actually free. What you’ll need to save money for is traveling expenses, parking, etc. Downtown L.A. isn’t cheap.

      If you have a video game-focused site, you’ll need around 15k-20k visitors to qualify for a media badge. With a general site that also discusses video games, it goes up.

      Good luck applying next year!

      Reply
      • May 17 at 4:08 pm
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        Awesome thanks for the reply.
        With the visitors thing, are they looking for around 20k a week, month, or year usually?

        And I know too much about how expensive LA is, got family there haha :p

        Reply
        • May 18 at 11:03 pm
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          They look at unique monthly visitors, which is a stat you can get from Google Analytics.

          Reply
  • May 29 at 6:18 pm
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    Hey I will be attending E3 this year for the first time and I have been looking into ways to make sure I can get into the press conferences sense they are invite only and all…

    From what I read here you said if you didn’t get a invite,

    “you can still show up and attempt to gain entry. Many members of the general public do so, and your E3 badge will typically get you in before them as long as you’re nice.”

    I just want to double check if this is true before I get my hopes up too high. I have been looking on how to be admitted into the Sony and Microsoft Press Conference for this year.

    I already got a invite from Bethesda and I’m on the waiting list for Ubisoft but have been told by them that usually people on the waiting list usually get in…

    But I haven’t gotten a response from Microsoft or Sony for possible entry so I’m looking at all my options, so as I’m looking around I found this article so I hope you see this post and can help me out!

    So if you have any more pointers/Tips you can provide by any chance that would be greatly appreciated! 😀

    Reply
    • May 29 at 6:24 pm
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      Yeah, I don’t typically have problems getting into the press conferences. Just show up and look like it’s an inconvenience not to. With a press pass, you should be OK.

      Reply
      • May 31 at 12:40 pm
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        Awesome good to know!
        Say if it’s just an attendee pass?

        Reply
  • June 5 at 2:20 am
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    Thank you for this! This is my first year as a Media person for E3. I was wondering about the press conferences, so it sounds like I still have a chance to get in with my Media badge? Do you know what are the meetings rooms are for?

    Reply
    • June 6 at 5:04 pm
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      Meetings with developers to conduct an interview, get quotes, gain hands-on time. Some are for conducting business, but you won’t see those as media.

      Reply
  • June 9 at 10:40 pm
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    If you could only go one day, which day would it be? Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday? I’d like to get a good experience, check out some good keynotes and then perhaps attend an afterparty.

    Reply
    • June 10 at 12:11 am
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      The press conferences (which I guess would be the keynotes) are all on Sunday and Monday, and you can’t get into the exhibit hall then. Tuesday is the first day you can get into the exhibit hall, and there are no keynotes Tue through Thur.

      Afterparties happen throughout the week, and EA, PC Gamer, VRFest, and other organizations are holding auxiliary events throughout the week.

      I wouldn’t just pick one day. I usually drive out Saturday, spend a night outside downtown, and show up at the LACC Sunday morning and stay until Thursday night or Friday morning, depending on how I feel. There’s too much to see in one day. You’ll wait in a lot of lines to check out games.

      Reply
  • June 9 at 9:43 pm
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    Thank you for all the useful information posted on this webpage! Will take everything into account! Now, this may sound like a dumb question (this is because this is my fist time attending E3), but earlier today I received an email about getting a wristband for the Ubisoft booth at the event. Is a wristband like this required to enter the booths or would just your E3 pass suffice?

    Reply
    • June 9 at 9:52 pm
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      Just to verify, this bracelet is a “personal RFID bracelet”

      Reply
    • June 9 at 11:22 pm
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      The wristband is for the press conference most likely. Otherwise, it means they have a game that requires an appointment. For the past few years leading up to VR, for example, it was impossible to try anything on the Rift without an appointment with Oculus. I’d recommend signing up for any wristband you can get, and trying to talk your way past any you can’t. Ubisoft may also use the wristbands for entry into other private events, and while their booth will be open to anyone, it’ll for sure get you VIP treatment while you’re there, so grab it.

      Reply

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