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E3, the annual trade show of the video game industry, is tsunami of sights and sounds.
The circus-like atmosphere, held this year from June 16-18 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, is filled with previews of the hottest new games, demos of virtual reality headsets, a slew of high-end parties, and plenty of celebrity cameos. These game publishers spare no expense to turn the heads of influential taste-makers.
But there's a difference between just going to E3 and getting the complete E3 experience. While the days of publisher sponsored Lollapalooza-like concerts (such as Activision's 2010 event which featured performances from Usher, Pharrell Williams and Eminem) are largely over, there are still plenty of exclusive experiences you’ll want to be part of.
Historically E3 has been closed to the general public. This year, though, the show is shaking things up. Between 4,000 and 5,000 fans who aren't professionally affiliated with the industry will be invited onto the show floor. (Though, for reasons only a marketing department could comprehend, the Entertainment Software Association, which runs E3, is calling them "prosumers"). They'll join the estimated 50,000 gaming insiders already in attendance.
“The inclusion of prosumers will help raise awareness and excitement of the new games and products that will be unveiled during E3," said Rich Taylor, senior vice president for communications and industry affairs at the ESA. "We are proud to offer this opportunity to both our exhibitors and the biggest fans of our community.”
Big Reveals at Sony's Media Conference
The PlayStation 4 is the hottest game console of this generation—and everyone wants to know what Sony has up its sleeve next.
On Monday, June 15, the company shows its hand to invited members of the industry (and a few 'PlayStation Nation' citizens)——but not before throwing a big soiree with dozens of food trucks and a pair of open bars. Once they're well-fed, the audience will get a look at everything from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (one of the company's big upcoming titles) to Project Morpheus, the code-name for its virtual reality headset that will be released in the first half of 2016.
Avoid the Lines at Backroom Demos
E3 is a crowded show—often to the point of frustration. You'll get to play demos of upcoming games on the show floor, but you often have to wait in long lines to do so.
Select VIPs, though, can bypass those lines—and avoid the crowds—through closed-door, backroom demos. You're better able to focus on the game, you're able to have some one-on-one time with the people who made it, and you're generally able to sit down—a luxury that can't be overstated enough at the show.
For the many celebrities who pop into E3, this is the preferred way to see new titles. Problem is,they're appointment only affairs, meaning if you want to get into one, you'll need to ride on the coattails of a top-tier reporter or be famous enough (or friends with someone famous enough) that the publisher lets you in.
Gamers Face-off at the Xbox FanFest
Microsoft is putting together a VIP experience of its own for a select group of gamers at its showcase, Xbox FanFest. The first 500 people who line up at the Microsoft store at Westfield Century City on June 13 will not only get into the Xbox media briefing (which, like Sony, sets the tone for the years to come), but also are fêted with a private party, where they can play many of the games shown at that briefing.
FanFest attendees will also take part in exclusive meet and greets with game makers and get VIP seating at the Xbox eSports Celebrity Challenge, where some of the biggest names in professional gaming will face off. And Microsoft says it has even more surprises in store—but it's not ready to divulge those yet.
Nintendo World Championships’ Celebrity Cameos
The Nintendo World Championships, which will be held June 14 at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, is a public event, with free passes available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9:30 a.m. that morning. But seeing as it's the first time Nintendo has hosted the tournament since 1990, it's bound to be a hot ticket. Gamers have been fighting for their spots at eight Best Buy stores around the country for the past month. And they'll come together to compete in 15 different Nintendo games for the crown.
The original 1990 tournament (on which this year’s is inspired) was itself loosely based on the Fred Savage film "The Wizard". It hasn't yet been announced if Savage or his costars Christian Slater and Jenny Lewis will attend this year's battle, but Savage has dropped some hints on Twitter that he plans to be on hand.
Networking at the J.W. Marriott
Forget about getting a room at the nearby J.W. Marriott on West Olympic Blvd. It's booked solid far in advance of E3—and typically by some of the industry's biggest names. That's not only because it's the most luxurious downtown L.A.'s hotels, but it's also the closest to the show's Los Angeles Convention Center home.
But just because you're not a guest doesn't mean you can't hobnob with gaming greats. The hotel bar is a good place to spot them at night—and the breakfast buffet is a collection of the industry's power brokers.
Wargaming X Party Ends with a Bang
After enduring nearly a week filled with flashing lights and thumping bass, you might think E3 showgoers would prefer a little peace and quiet. But, no. There’s one last blowout you can't miss.
Wargaming's parties are the sort of over-the-top soirees that only a Russian company can throw. They're invite-only, dance-music festivals that never hesitate to push boundaries. (A previous party hosted by the company featured gyrating dancers wearing gas masks and bunny ears and asked attendees to wear refraction glasses as they watched a Laser show while a techno band played.)
Mat Zo is DJ-ing this year's event, with Swedish duo Galantis headlining. And for E3 attendees, it is their last chance to let loose before returning to the real world. They're real strict with the invites (not even allowing +1s), so generally if you're not already on the list, you're not going to be —unless you're a friend of the CEO or something.