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E3's virtual convention centre is an absolute fiasco

What passes for a character creator on E3's portal
(Image credit: Entertainment Software Association)
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E3 is back, baby. In lieu of an on-site show, this year's convention is taking place entirely online (opens in new tab). But while it's easy to replace a flashy stage show with a livestream, the ESA also wants to replicate the in-person experience with an online portal—one that seeks to recreate the experience of visiting a booth, dropping a business card, and talking about brand new games. 

Ahead of a public opening this weekend, the media has been granted early access to this site. It is, in short, a shitshow.

You might've heard that this year's E3 portal has been heavily gamified. There are avatars (created with a profoundly disappointing Picrew (opens in new tab) knock-off), achievements, even daily leaderboards for being the best at networking. In concept, it's extremely goofy. In practice, it's barely even finished.

Waypoint's Austin Walker catalogued some of the weirdness in a Twitter thread earlier today. Publishers have seemingly been made to guess as to the context in which their achievements will be displayed, leading to some very vague (and several unfinished) challenges.

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It's a deeply confusing way to express a system that doesn't justify its existence to begin with. Walker follows that up with a jab at some completely baffling UI sensibilities, a trend that carries over the entire site. At best, the E3 portal could be a handy list of publisher's sites and streams—but you'd never find them under all this jank.

But where some of these rushed decisions are confusing at best, others are outright hostile. The Gamer's Jade King discovered that the portal hasn't even the barest gender options, with every user on the portal declared male by default. 

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It's a shockingly barebones, ill-conceived website for what's supposed to be the biggest show in the calendar. It's only more off-putting when you consider that it's only two years ago that the ESA leaked the personal data of over 2,000 journalists and content creators (opens in new tab)

"What’s most concerning is that the ESA, despite grossly mishandling data in 2019, has enlisted a team seemingly unqualified to put together anything *resembling* a passable online experience," Windows Central's Matt Brown tweeted (opens in new tab). "If this is what’s on the surface, what’s happening behind the scenes?"

As a member of the games press, it's already hard to justify using this site. There are so many ways to reach contacts outside this hub, and we'll be watching the streams along with the rest of you over on Twitch and YouTube. 

What's wilder, to me, is that the ESA expects fans to be rushing in to try out this site when the doors open to the public on June 12th. If there's little to offer to press here, then I can safely assure you that you're missing nothing by giving this site a miss. 

Nothing, save a below-average character creator designed for LinkedIn power users.

Natalie Clayton
Natalie Clayton

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.