The Future of Pop Culture Conventions: Should We be Worried?

Pop Culture Conventions

This time of year is always a good time to be a nerd, with pop culture conventions taking place around the world.

Last month at E3, gamers the world over hunkered down and savoured all the reveals and meme-worthy moments that the annual conference never fails to deliver on.

This month, from 18 – 21 July, fans everywhere will be graced with San Diego Comic-Con, the world’s biggest celebration of all things geeky and pop culture, which always includes a few surprises for everyone to enjoy.

Unlike previous years, however, this year is different. These conventions are looking less exciting, less interesting and just lesser, with the main reason for this perception being the lack of participation.

Recently, it seems all fans have heard of is how many of their favourite developers or IPs are skipping the year’s festivities. At E3, Sony, despite being a strong presence in the past, were not in attendance, and EA held smaller presentations and gameplay streams instead of their usual press conference. It’s also worth mentioning that the loss of Sony meant the loss of Activation, which was a shame because this is the first time I was excited for a Call of Duty game in years.

Come Comic-Con and fans will likely see much the same. Warner Bros. recently announced plans to skip the traditional big panel in Hall-H, despite having now less than 3 high-profile DC films set for release within the next year in the form of Joker, Birds of Prey, and the much-anticipated sequel Wonder Woman 1984.

The question becomes, should fans be worried? Should we be scared that we are going to lose these wonderful periods of being able to gorge on hype and excitement? The short answer I believe, is no. The longer answer is that it is complicated and the answer lies in the question, ‘where are they going?’

Where are they all going?

Let’s look at Sony, who arguably is the most shocking of all the convention withdrawals. When first announced, Sony gave a pretty vague reason for not attending, stating that:

“PlayStation fans mean the world to us and we always want to innovate, think differently and experiment with new ways to delight gamers. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019”

Obviously, this statement doesn’t answer many questions but the real reason can more than likely be seen in their showcase last year. Sony’s 2018 conference was different to others, offering close up looks at only four games in rather peculiar fashion (I can’t be the only one remembering the guy with the flute right?).

The reactions to this was mixed to say the least. Since Sony didn’t have any new titles to show off aside from the three unreleased titles that fans already know of, and weren’t ready to reveal the PS5, skipping the show might not have been a bad idea.

EA is a lot easier. In recent years the publisher has been slowly trying to build the EA Play event at E3, usually holding their conference there the day before the E3 shows begin. Last year, EA received some good press for the amount of gameplay they showed off so it makes sense for the company to want to double down on this aspect and leave the large expensive show at the door in favour of smaller presentations in their own event.

As for Warner Bros. skipping Comic-Con this year well, that’s a lot harder to nail down. While it’s true that the company has some stuff to show off in Hall H, the big thing all fans want to see, which is a new DC film slate, might simply be something the company is not ready to

reveal. It’s also worth noting that Marvel is expected to return after a notable absence last year for much the same reason, and sharing the spotlight with the MCU, who seem primed for some big announcement might be something Warner Bros. and DC would like to avoid.

Should we be worried?

So, that brings us back to the question about whether these events are going to fall now that companies seemingly don’t feel as tied to them as they did in the past. The biggest thing to remember is what exactly these events are, they’re conventions. Both E3 and Comic-Con both exist more than just a stage for big reveals, they serve as a place for people to gather in person and celebrate their passions.

It’s also worth mentioning that in the case of E3, the presentations don’t even take place the same time as the convention, typically being held the weekend before. With Comic-Con, just because a company forgoes a large presentation doesn’t mean it won’t have stalls for fans, as has been made clear by the intentions of DC this year.

But of course, fans don’t want to miss out on the big reveals and trailers either and that’s fair. As fans, we have been trained to expect something this time of year, but so have publishers and studios. Take Sony for example, despite not attending this year’s conference, in the time building up to the event, the company released not only the first details about the PS5 but also an extended look at Death Stranding.

Same can be said for DC, if you haven’t seen the recently released fantastic posters for Wonder Woman 1984, I highly recommend it.

The point is, that this is still the time of year fans are watching. No company can afford to stay silent. The point is that despite all the changes this year, fans are going to get their fill of surprises. After all, tis the season.

by Benjamin Lister.

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