For years the Super Bowl of video games has been industry only, meaning if the average die hard gamer wanted to attend you had to know a guy who knew a guy. In 2017, the Electronic Entertainment Expo will officially sell a limited number of general attendee passes to this year’s trade show in Los Angeles. E3 is being given to the people…sort of.

On Monday, February 13 at 9:00 a.m PST, anyone who has always dreamed of walking the E3 show floor can purchase a pass for $249 through the show’s website. Only 15,000 will be available with the first 1,000 being sold at a discounted price of $149. Many in the industry have seen this coming for years now. Major publishers and hardware manufacturers have felt as though there was more value in self-marketing directly to consumers over corporate buyers and inventory controllers, especially in the growing digital distribution age. Electronic Arts (EA) was one of the first notable exits from the show, opting instead to host their own open to the public event in 2016.

The growing footprint of consumer driven gaming shows such as PAX and RTX have certainly contributed to the decision by E3’s governing body the Electronic Software Association. A show such as PAX Prime in Seattle does attendance in the vicinity of 100k with exhibitor space sold to developers at a competitive price in comparison to a show such as E3 whose cost must be made up through sponsorship and sales of exhibit floor spacing at a higher cost.

Adding general public to E3 also means additional elements coming to the show. One of the staples of consumer driven convention experiences has been programming. Hearing your favorite creators or celebs interact with an audience for a short time separates conventions from bargain hunting flea markets. The ESA’s notice of general pass sales also came with word of E3 adding specific tracks of panels dedicated to talks from prominent figures in gaming. What exactly that will be remains to be seen. For a show that costs $249, you’d better belive it’s going to have a high bar of scrutiny.

E3’s primary existence is the business. Whether VP’s from major retailers and studios were getting behind closed doors looks at unreleased games or media was doing interviews with the developers of highly anticipated games; E3 has been a place where everyone in the building had an agenda. Adding the element of the general public might cut some of that away, but the show will still remain an industry geared sales pitch.

15,000 general public passes are a drop in the bucket compared to last year’s announced number of 70,000 participants with over 50,000 of those being media and industry professionals. It’s likely a case of the expo is simply adding these passes rather than what something like SDCC would do where the addition of tickets has to come from one of the categories of attendee pools.

The ESA’s first learning experience of the public friendly E3 will happen this Monday when those passes go on sale. It took SDCC years of trial-and-error ticketing launches to be where it is today, and as some would say it still isn’t all that great. We’d reached out to E3’s PR department for any additional information regarding the pass sale process but as of writing this we have not recieved a response. While 15,000 people in LA alone would sell their grandmother for a chance to be at E3, this is a show that the entire world flocks to downtown Los Angeles for. With good reason, as much work as we put into covering the show; it’s still tied with PAX West for the most fun I have at a convention all year.

While a rookie compared to some, I’ve attended the last 10 years of E3 in various capacities: Best Buy con artist, industry professional, to a member of the press. No year both terrifies and excites me quite like this one, and that’s not even counting putting my heavy breath on Microsoft’s Project Scorpio.

E3 2017 is going to be one of the most interesting for gaming and conventions alike, but getting in won’t be easy. If you’re going to try your luck at scoring a coveted E3 pass on Monday…may the odds be forever in your favor.

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