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Retrospective | E3 gaming convention is history: Where Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn once butted heads for Western market

The battle between CD-based consoles really started heating up at E3. In those days, the Mega CD (in the middle) was seldom seen. (Photo: Andreas Sebayang/
The battle between CD-based consoles really started heating up at E3. In those days, the Mega CD (in the middle) was seldom seen. (Photo: Andreas Sebayang/
E3 was once the most important games conventions in the world. Now this trade show, known for presenting big announcements from the games industry in the 90s, is going the way of the dodo. Here is a look back at the promising start of E3.

The year 1995 was an exciting one in the gaming industry. The then market leader Sega had to defend its dominance in the West against newcomer Sony: a battle between the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation. The year saw the release of Windows 95, an operating system that was an apparent departure from DOS and offered many exciting games a platform for the future. And then E3 also took place. 

It was the very first E3 at that. The video game trade show was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center and was considered one of the most important in the world. We said “was” because the event officially closed its doors on the morning (US Pacific time) of 12 December 2023. E3 showed generations of gamers where the gaming world is heading, especially at the beginning.

A time long since forgotten

You really have to go back in time to understand what it was like in the early years. The person writing this article only knew E3 by habitually buying gaming magazines. The Internet? Hardly conceivable back then; there wasn’t much other than a few CompuServe and AOL friends that you sometimes approach just to even experience the Internet. Television? There wasn't much on offer apart from a few TV shows about video games. Gaming still had somewhat of a poor reputation in society at the time.

In those days, most gamers got news about the industry mostly through print media, be it gaming magazines or official publications of console manufacturers, such as Club Nintendo. This was something Nintendo did very well back then.

The year 1995 was also when French media retail chain Fnac pulled out of Berlin. The chain was very unique back then: it not only sold LaserDiscs, but also carried imported games that you could otherwise only get from specialist retailers. Of course, those were awfully expensive because international commerce wasn’t really a thing at that point. It was a different era where you still had to purchase games through catalogues or from big department stores, specialist retailers (increasingly rarer these days) or dedicated video game chains found across the city.

Sony and Sega butted heads at E3

E3 was huge when things started getting really interesting in the gaming industry. Much like the Sega Saturn, the PlayStation was showcased at the event shortly before its launch. The Saturn was Sega’s penultimate attempt at staying around as a console maker with the help of powerful hardware. Sony used E3 to announce the PlayStation along with its aggressive pricing. Sure, the Sony console was only going to be available months later, but, priced at US$299, it was a whopping US$100 cheaper than the Saturn.

At this time, the Nintendo 64 was still far from release, and console gamers worldwide were still playing on the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive (also known as the Genesis in North America), which was relatively successful at selling add-ons like the 32X and Mega CD.

And what about the PC? Windows 95 was only scheduled to release later. But according to an article by the Washington Post, Microsoft already showcased games for the new platform then at E3. This arguably helped the OS establish itself once and for all as the gaming platform in home computing – which is still the case today. 

In the years to follow, E3 continued to be a crucial platform for announcing consoles outside Japan. Global publications were still quite uncommon at that time, and articles about the Tokyo Game Show didn’t always provide gamers back then with enough information, especially since TGS only started in 1996. The European Computer Trade Show in London was another event known to gamers. 

Microsoft's two-pronged entry into the console world

In subsequent years, E3 also became important for another newcomer in the console industry: Microsoft. Essential launch details about the company’s consoles were regularly revealed at E3. Sony continued to showcase its PlayStations. Before that, Sega had one more go on the market with the Dreamcast – a console that incidentally runs Windows CE. 

Nintendo is another topic that came up time and again. The console manufacturer first made the transition to discs with the GameCube, before going back to using cartridges in their home consoles with the Switch.

E3 also established itself in the PC gaming industry with big announcements related to even bigger titles, many of which ultimately somehow ended up on consoles as well, much like how more and more classic console games received a PC port. 

Though E3 didn’t become completely irrelevant as a platform for consoles and PC in the years prior to the pandemic, it did lose a little bit of importance. Triple-A games were announced often enough for PC, PlayStation and Xbox. Only Nintendo managed to continue doing its own thing.

E3 didn’t get to experience the current console generation. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X came out when COVID-19 was at its peak, whilst E3 2020 (which was actually important for the console launches) was cancelled due to the pandemic. E3 turned into an online-only show in 2021 and also didn't return to the Los Angeles Convention Center as a proper physical event in 2022 and 2023. And now it is officially history.

Goodbye message on the official website (Screenshot:
Goodbye message on the official website (Screenshot:

In the meantime, even the E3 website is more or less gone. There is nothing more than a goodbye message from the Entertainment Software Association: GGWP – good game, well played. However, this doesn’t mean the contents have completely vanished. Thanks to the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive project, E3’s website has been saved more than 6,000 times since 1998. There isn’t much left to see on the website in recent times. On the morning of 12 December 2023 (Pacific time), it says on the home page that E3 2023 has been cancelled. There was absolutely no indication of E3 2024.

Trailer-focused show instead of show floor

E3 has been replaced by various trailer-focused shows. Not only is this cost-effective for companies, they also don't have to subject themselves as much to a critical public during a game's development. The format is rather convenient if you want to drum up hype for a game without needing to show features.

Out of the long-established gaming conventions, gamescom in Germany and Tokyo Game Show in Japan are the ones remaining. There are also more specialised events (e.g. the Game Developers Conference) and company-centric conventions (e.g. BlizzCon).

Game Rant has a list of such gaming conventions ranked by scale. There may be a few surprises in the list, especially because Game Rant looks at gaming on a broader scope.

If you want take a trip down memory lane, we also recommend the aforementioned article by the Washington Post. Even though it was published in 2021, E3 had already lost a lot of importance during the pandemic. As a result, the WaPo article does indeed cover the relevant period in the convention's history and give people actively involved in the first few E3 shows an opportunity to talk about them.

The world was still fine for E3 in 2019. (Screenshot: via Wayback Machine)
The world was still fine for E3 in 2019. (Screenshot: via Wayback Machine)


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > Reviews > E3 gaming convention is history: Where Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn once butted heads for Western market
Andreas Sebayang, 2023-12-14 (Update: 2023-12-14)