Retro: A Brief History of E3

Remember 1995? Not many do. It was a strange time in human history. Pyramid schemes and cults were the norm, vacuum cleaners, cleaning chemicals and insurance were still sold door-to-door, and we all thought denim overalls were the bomb.

But for all the stoneagery of the year (what internet?), an extremely significant event was being planned to launch in Los Angeles, California that would become a beacon of high end technology and state-of-the-art entertainment for years to come. It was called the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Prior to May 1995, the only way the console manufactures of the time (those being Sega and Nintendo mainly) could showcase their games and consoles in the West was usually through the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The problem, though, was that the organisers of CES looked at games as a different type of technology and not really something that should stand next to televisions and VHS players (ironically).

Actually, the consoles weren’t really the problem – the games were. Software was not something one would generally showcase at CES, but the leaders of the Interactive Digital Software Association (which today is known as the Entertainment Software Association) asked CES to section off a private area where developers could showcase their games.

Sony Launches PS1

The request was denied and so E3 – an expo specifically for video game developers, publishers and console manufactures to strut their stuff individually, away from the already popular CES who were content to show off camcorders, television sets and other appliances.

The very first E3 show took place over three days in May, 1995. Sony used the show to announce the international release date of the PlayStation console which they said “signaled the death of the 16bit era”.

Nintendo announced the Nintendo 64 console for the first time in 1995. It was called the “Ultra 64″ which ran at an “amazingly fast 93.75Mhz”. Nintendo also announced launch plans for their latest handed, the Virtual Boy which beamed red and black 3D graphics into the wearer’s eyes.

Sega’s announcement was the most surprising. Then CEO of Sega of America, Tom Kalinske (who was sharing a stage with the Sony CEO) showed some TV commercials for the already announced Sega Saturn. The shocking announcement was that the console had been shipped to retailers overnight and were available for purchase that day. Sony’s CEO announced later that the PlayStation would retail for US$100 cheaper than the Sega Saturn.

Nintendo's Virtual Boy

The E3 expo was instantly successful – over 80,000 people filed into the convention centre over the three days, making it one of the most successful expo launches in history. Over the years, publisher and console companies have used the show as the biggest platform to announce their latest games and machines.

The show has also become a hotbed of developer interviews, allowing press one-on-one time with the people who make the video games. After the major announcements, developers often host “round table” discussions with select members of the press, which is usually a fan favorite as sometimes future plans slip out, such as Shigeru Miyamoto’s 2011′s announcement that Pikmin 3 is being developed for Nintendo Wii U making it the only confirmed game to be in development from the publisher.

In 2012, the show will take place from June 5 – 7 and is tipped to be one of the biggest in recent years as Sony prepare a year’s worth of releases for the PlayStation Vita, Nintendo announce plans to launch the high definition Wii U and Microsoft, some say, may announce a new console of their own.

Sega's Saturn Surprise Launch

Be sure to check out our E3 Coverage Portal at e3.aussie-gamer.com for all the latest from the show!

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