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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Rondina

Xbox Fan Fest: A Look Back at the History of the Event

A first hand look back at an incredible in-person E3 experience, Xbox Fan Fest!

Every year the entire gaming industry descends upon Los Angeles to knock our sox off with the latest and greatest in interactive entertainment at E3. The 2022 show will be very different with virtual events in light of the COVID-19 along with E3 itself being cancelled.

Before that, there was no real way for non-industry personnel to gain access to the show. Enter Xbox FanFest, which in 2015, allowed a few hundred very lucky fans unprecedented access to Microsoft’s E3 offerings. Fanfest in 2022 will take on a completely new look with watch parties in Los Angeles, Madrid, Toronto, Canada and Melbourne.

The very first Xbox FanFest

In 2015, Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb announced Microsoft would be hosting its very first Xbox FanFest at E3 that year. At the time, no one really knew exactly what to expect from the event, it was the first of its kind. What was known is that fans would gain “VIP access to the Xbox E3 briefing,” an after party and other “surprises throughout the week of E3.”

On June 14th, 2015 in the early hours of the morning hundreds of fans queued up at the Microsoft Store at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles for their chance to win a ticket.

They were greeted by Xbox lead Phil Spencer, Major Nelson, Aaron Greenberg, and other Xbox executives while they camped out.

After some waited nearly 22 hours in line, 500 fans walked away with tickets to the inaugural event. They were treated to one of the most exclusive fan experiences in the gaming industry; up-front seats to the Xbox media briefing, going hands-on with unreleased games at a rip-roaring after party and surprised with tickets granting access to the E3 show floor. After its early success, Xbox FanFest has quickly become a global event, hosting thousands of fans from over 30 countries in 7 cities across the world.

What makes this event so special?

I’ve been lucky enough to attend the event twice, and have had an inside look at the most incredible fan events I’ve ever been part of. Let’s pull back the curtain on Xbox Fan Fest and what its all about.

Xbox FanFest 2017 – Welcome to the Show!

Nothing could have prepared me for my first Xbox FanFest, the event is one massive celebration of Xbox gaming with you at centre.

Touching down in Los Angeles was wild, I hadn’t been to E3 since 2005, but my anticipation was off the charts for this once in a lifetime FanFest experience!

The first day of the event we were treated to a pre-party before the Xbox press briefing kicked off at Casa Vertigo. It was incredible to meet people that you had been speaking with online for years, it was essentially a giant gaming family reunion!

Xbox executives were also mingling, I was able to meet Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb for the first time along with Phil Spencer and many others over the course of the event. They were incredibly humble, willing to talk about anything gaming related. Spencer was especially appreciative of fans, he spent hours chatting and was always happy to stop for a selfie.

After the morning festivities we headed to the Galen Center for the Xbox E3 Press Briefing where we were treated to a pre-show Q&A by Phil Spencer himself. The energy in the room was absolutely insane! Before moving into the briefing I was able to chat with many other fellow Xbox gamers. For me, this is what really defined FanFest, uniting people that share a passion for gaming.

The Xbox Media briefing was a mind-blowing experience, we were seated 2 rows back from the mainstage, a spot I thought I would never find myself in. I had watched the event for years wondering if I’d ever make it in person, and here I was in the middle of it all!

After the presser we headed back to Casa Vertigo for more unexpected surprises from the Xbox team going hands-on with unreleased games and meet-n-greets with iconic developers like Gears of War’s Rod Fergusson and Forza’s Dan Greenawalt.

Rod has since moved onto Blizzard Entertainment, leaving an indelible mark on the Gears of War franchise and The Coalition Studio.

The next evening we were treated to an “Xbox Fan Showcase” where the entire E3 stage area was converted into a gaming playground. We demoed the latest and greatest unreleased titles, even some that were just premiered, all in a wild party atmosphere.

The event was unbelievable and the FanFest experience was so jam packed, I could hardly believe the doors to E3 hadn’t even actually opened yet! If you are an Xbox fan, or a fan of gaming in general, FanFest is a must!

Xbox FanFest 2018 – Reliving the Magic

Sometimes lightning can strike twice, and in my case it happened with an invitation to attend Xbox FanFest a second year in a row! I can’t begin to describe my excitement when I knew I was going again. I immediately started reaching out to other people I met last year to see if they would be in attendance too. This was far and away my favourite part of both FanFests, meeting new people in the community and returning to see old friends.

This year was a game-changer as the venue was completely new, with FanFest activities shifting to Xbox Plaza. The new location was right next to the LA Convention Center and was packed with wall-to-wall Xbox experiences. We were treated once again to front and centre seats during the Xbox Media Briefing getting a first look at titles like Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 4 and Gears 5 up close and personal!

After the press conference we were treated to private panels with game developers, including Capcom’s Hideaki Itsuno giving us an inside look Devil May Cry 5!

The next evening we were invited to Xbox Plaza once again to experience the game lineup first hand. The E3 stage became one massive party area where we got to chat with the Xbox team and play the newly announced fall 2018 lineup. We were able to be some of the first gamers in the world to experience The Division 2, Forza Horizon 4 and a hand full of other titles.

Xbox Fan Fest is an amazing experience, not just what it does for its fans but the greater community. In 2018, the event partnered with Gamers Outreach to raise money to build a fleet of GO Karts for UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. The ticket sales from Xbox FanFest generated $20,000 USD for the initiative and this year they are doing the same for E3 2019.

Be sure to follow the FanFest fun this year on twitter with the #XboxFanFest hastag!

This article is dedicated to Matthew “Xbox_Addictt” Ebbert (LEFT) keep chasing that horizon my friend.


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