Why do arcade and pinball companies not go to E3?

E3 has just passed by this year, and while I was not invited to go (there’s no reason for them to invite me anyway), I know someone who WAS able to go. She showed me the program guide, and among the list of companies showcasing stuff, there were no companies that made arcade machines that do not also make console games, computer games, or mobile games. I heard Stern was there a few years ago, but I don’t know what became of that. There was a small arcade section, apparently, but it was a bunch of machines placed there by the organizers, not by any companies in particular.

Why do companies like Stern or Raw Thrills not go to E3? Does it cost too much to have a booth or room there? Is the E3 crowd more or less not interested in what they make? Does E3 overlap with something higher priority?

I can answer for Raw … Consumer shows don’t generate enough sales for us to be worth the effort of showing up.

We can try to rationalize that there’s an intangible benefit of having consumers play our product at these shows that will somehow drive them to seek our games out on location to put money in the cashbox, but that’s too much of a stretch for us to take seriously.


As someone who designs/produces booths for E3 (Twitter’s this year!) the cost is pretty high and I can’t imagine that really fits in smartly with Stern’s business model.

They do attend CES, which likely gives them the same visibility.


That actually makes a lot of sense. E3 is almost exclusively about games people will buy in order to play directly and their peripherals.

Now, I’m not big on convention terminology, but is it still a consumer show if E3 is not open to the public? Only people within the industry, other convention staff, some celebrities, and the press (including high-profile bloggers, social media people, and streamers) are allowed in and through invitation only, though the presentations are always broadcast live during E3. It is most certainly not a trade show, but is there some category in between, like a press show or something?

Thanks for the explanation. I take it arcade and pinball companies have different business models than console, computer, and mobile game companies, namely that the players are not always the buyers?

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E3 really caters to the console and PC video game press. Stern already gets press from sites like IGN and ArsTechnica when new games are released, so I’m not sure spending the time/money to build a presence at E3 would do much for them.

I was first to play WoZ when Jersey Jack was at E3. That was pretty awesome. The only other pinball machine I’ve seen at E3 was a Medieval Madness that Farsight had brought one year. But yeah, the coverage and exposure that amusement would receive at E3 would be pretty low. I could actually see something like a Star Wars Battle Pod being at E3 as part of a booth, but not as means to promote the product itself.

We actually end up seeing our vendors use our games for booths at their trade shows just to up the ‘cool factor’ of their booth space.

I know for years Dell dragged around a Guitar Hero Arcade and Big Buck Hunter to all their trade shows since we ship with a Dell inside them.

We have also had luck displaying equipment at the Licensing Show through our existing licensing partenerships. It’s easy to have a meeting with a potential licensor and point over to the booth of one of your partners and be able to show them exactly what you can do with a license. Has certainly helped us to close a deal or two in the past.

The thing I always find most fun about E3 is the press conferences. I kind of imagine in my head how awesome it would be to have pinball companies do reveals like that, but the problem is that there are onlya few new pinball machines per year that there’s no way to do a show in the fashion that video game companies do.

Perhaps Gerry’s P3 system will allow for an exciting stage event at a pinball show someday. Since developers will be able to design and release new downloadable games for existing playfields that consumers can get cheaply like video games.

There are actually some very small companies that go to E3 to showcase only one game. Deep Silver was present at this past one, for instance, solely to promote Mighty No. 9, and did so not from one of the main halls, where companies like Bandai-Namco or Ubisoft hang out, but in one of the conference rooms.

The big press conferences you see are those created by the console manufacturers, whose fans expect something big and flashy each year and always include games made by many different companies. (Heck, for this year, even Nintendo decided to focus 90% of its resources on one game, which is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.)

It’s actually why I asked this question in the first place: I figured E3 would be an appealing venue to companies hoping to get a big dose of mainstream exposure. However, I can see how E3’s focus to the consumers wouldn’t work that well with big multi-thousand dollar coin-op machines, just as how I’m certain new models of home washing machines would probably be showcased at different conventions than washing machines meant for laundromats. The buyers are just in totally different demographics.

It would be like subway showing up to talk about their sandwiches at a pizza convention.
Same church, wrong pew.