Mobile Mavens

Does E3 need mobile games more than mobile games need E3?

Mobile Mavens discuss the mobile dearth at E3 2016

Does E3 need mobile games more than mobile games need E3?

Following the announcement - and subsequent success - of Fallout Shelter at Bethesda's E3 2015 press conference, it felt as though mobile games may have finally found their place at the console-dominated show.

But at E3 2016, we've heard barely a whisper of mobile gaming chatter.

No significant announcements, and very little to speak of on the show floor.

And so, we ask our Mobile Mavens:

  • Do you now think E3 needs mobile games more than mobile games need E3?


William D. Volk Chief Futurist Forward Reality

Yes, E3 needs mobile games. E3 had mobile games a few years ago.

Here are some pics from E3 2012:

So why no more?

Because mobile games are marketed direct to consumers. There’s no BestBuy or GameStop people to impress and the folks who run the app stores aren’t influenced by an E3 presence.

E3 needs mobile games because mobile games are now a major segment of games.

Trivia: In 2005 I was the CEO of BonusMobile and yes… we did a booth at E3. It was for our multiplayer mobile card game based on yo-momma insults - The Dozens.

William Volk at his E3 2005 booth

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Games Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

E3 was very happy to have mobile games as part of the show - it's the publishers who have abandoned E3, not the other way around.

William is right to say that mobile has become a direct-to-consumer marketing challenge with no need to be part of the retail hype cycle that E3 embodies, but I think it's more than that.

E3 was very happy to have mobile games as part of the show - it's the publishers who have abandoned E3.
John Ozimek

Shows like E3 are all about building brands and getting fans super-hyped enough to decide to spend $60 on a game that might not be out for another year.

Without console and publishers spending big on brand-led marketing, there would be no games media to speak of - sustained as it is by the huge marketing budgets that a AAA+ console game has.

So you have an equilibrium between retailer, publisher, media and consumer that is still just about working. Compared to that, mobile is a closed shop that exists as long as it helps to sell iPhones and helps Google rake in the ad dollars.

In mobile, I think we've become too focused on metrics and data at the expense of emotion and brand building.

We talk about mega-publishers running TV adverts because it's the exception rather than the rule, but when operators were putting marketing money into Java games, it wasn't unusual to see billboard and magazine ads for a mobile game.

We may be better at making money out of mobile games, but I am not sure that we've become any better at creating brands. Maybe that's not important these days?

What our industry lacks is a showcase like E3, but dedicated to mobile. The fact we don't have such an event after 15 years of mobile gaming speaks for itself.

Yes, there are plenty of events aimed at "indie" devs or the C-suites, but when it comes to showcasing mobile to consumers, we get lumped into the "entertainment" zone at shows like CES or Gamescom.

But in order to do that, publishers need to be willing to spend decent dollars, and accept that the results won't translate into a CPI spreadsheet.

Scott Foe Chief Product Officer Ignited Artists

Mobile gamers by and large do not do purchase research; they play what their friends tell them to play, or they click on an advertisement.

Until hardcore mobile takes off in a bigger way, cost/benefit analysis says that mobile publishers should avoid E3.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

I don’t think E3 needs mobile, nor vice versa.

I don’t think E3 needs mobile, nor vice versa.
Dave Castelnuovo

In some isolated cases like Fallout Shelter where you have a high quality mobile spinoff from a beloved AAA game, then E3 seems to make a lot of sense and is very effective.

However, for the most part E3 exists to promote blockbuster, triple-A games that take 1000+ devs and 4-5 years to create, along with a 2-3 year pre-launch hype cycle.

Can you imagine Clash Royale pre-hyping even a year ahead of time?

They would get the Vlambeer treatment and get cloned before it’s even released.

Shintaro Kanaoya CEO Chorus Worldwide

Founder and CEO of Chorus Worldwide, a publisher for Western mobile developers seeking success in the Asian markets, Shintaro has over 20 years' experience within the gaming industry.

He has worked in various roles from game production, localisation, marketing and business development at companies such as EA, SCEE, Rare and Microsoft.

Some great points all round.

I definitely think that E3, being purely a trade show (not that Joe Public can’t get in posing as a blogger), still focuses a lot on retail. But it’s definitely a more consumer-facing event now.

The purpose of the pre-show events from the majors is as much about getting the videos of those events out into the world as it is about exciting retailers. Actually, probably more so.

Contrast E3 with the Tokyo Game Show, which is open to the public for the last 2 days. Last year, there was a huge number of mobile games, and the majority of the ads you saw from the station to the event were for mobile titles.

Cygames went huge promoting Granblue Fantasy, and Supercell had an impressive booth, backed up with a corridor takeover with their ads.

Having the public attend definitely gives that event more reason for mobile publishers to attend. Perhaps a similar opening of the E3 doors to the public would encourage a similar behaviour in LA.

Harry Holmwood CEO Marvelous Europe

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

Harry was European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

Harry is CEO of Magicave.

I just wandered through a deserted mobile game area on the show floor. It felt completely out of place.

E3 just isn't the right venue for mobile games.
Harry Holmwood

E3 just isn't the right venue for mobile games. It's there to be big and loud, and to persuade retail buyers and press that your game's going to be a hit.

I agree that I'd like to see some more big brand building exercises in the right environment (with consumers) for mobile games.

Last year's TGS was indeed a good demonstration of what can be done.

We do need to start being more innovative with our marketing, as UA shows no signs of getting cheaper.

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

Mobile games always feel like a secret until they come out, and there is a good reason for the secrecy.

It seems very easy for some studios to copy a game mechanic based off the hype of a game trailer. The public is easily confused when searching for the real game in a sea of clones.

This has happened over and over - we even talked about it in the Mobile Mavens Clash Royale chain.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.