In the twenty years that E3 has been running, PC and console games have ruled the show floor with an iron fist.
A fist, it should be noted, that is tightly wrapped round the sound system’s volume switch.
Mobile, meanwhile, has traditionally been relegated to the grey, windowless rooms suspended in the concourse walkway between E3’s two main halls.
Set alongside PC and console, mobile has seemed more of a specialist taste. Something that Barnes & Noble would keep behind the counter and you’d have to ask for.
But, of course, 2015 is the year that mobile gaming is predicted to eclipse console in revenue, and the twentieth anniversary of E3 saw a tip in the power balance scales.
70 mobile game companies set up shop at the Los Angeles Convention Center – the highest yet.
This year, 70 mobile game companies greased their elbows and set up shop at the Los Angeles Convention Center – the highest water mark yet at the show.
Upstarts on the up
Seasun Entertainment, MadFinger and Capcom's Beeline were shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the biggest PC and console firms on the show floor, showcasing their games with the same extravagant pizzazz.
For instance, Beeline had commandeered an original Ecto-1 car to draw attention to Ghostbusters Puzzle Fighter.
MadFinger was handing out Dead Trigger 2 T-Shirts and tattoo sleeves with the same largess that the post-war government once handed out free milk and spectacles.
Seasun Entertainment, meanwhile, was drawing in the crowds with a huge stage populated by actors cosplaying characters from its new game, Relics of Gods.
Indeed, Seasun’s booth was so lavish that one developer was later heard mistaking the game for a console title. The chasm separating mobile and its more glamorous gaming cousins is quickly shrinking.
Big name no shows
Of course, the biggest mobile companies still chose not to exhibit. Despite being one of the top-grossing mobile games firms, Supercell was nowhere to be seen. Likewise, King chose to avoid E3 while GungHo’s CEO did attend E3, but set up camp in the concourse rather than the main show floor.
Considering that Supercell chose to blow $9 million on advertising at the Superbowl, it’s not that mobile games don’t have the cash to buy a stage at E3.
On the contrary, according to data from Newzoo, Tencent is the number one video games company in the world by revenue, leaving even Sony, Microsoft and EA in the dust – but yet again, Tencent chose not to visit Los Angeles.
Clearly mobile isn’t yet staging a console coup, but it’s certainly sowing the seeds of growth at E3 with more and more tablet and smartphone gaming companies deciding to set up shop.
And no wonder. Bethesda’s launch of Fallout Shelter at E3 2015 ousted Candy Crush from the heights of the US top grossing chart in just a matter of days. As we see more triple-A mobile games hit the market, E3 will surely become a stomping ground for their fans and a hotbed of potential for marketing ploys.
Future E3s will surely be stomping grounds for the fans of triple-A mobile games.
Indeed while the conference organisers target a console demographic, exhibiting mobile games opens up E3 to millions of smartphone and tablet gamers – and all the interest that brings.
We’re constantly told that discoverability is a Bugatti Veyron-sized thorn in developers’ sides today.
Considering that the mobile chart toppers are currently steering clear of the LA Exhibition Center, it’s a huge opportunity for mid-tier developers with marketing budgets to spend to step out from under their shadows and draw attention to their games.
Grab attention on the show floor at E3, and at the very least you’re guaranteed to get internet tongues wagging and to establish your game as a title to take note of.
So fingers crossed that mobile can continue to grow its presence at E3 (perhaps even hitting 100 companies at next year’s show). The more mobile games that share the stage with the likes of Xbox and PlayStation, the more mobile gaming establishes itself as a rightful force on the industry stage.
And maybe, just maybe, they’ll turn that damn music down.