Jul 31

The Demise of E3

Posted by jgaudiosi :: Industry Trends

E3_2The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is no more. The big game publishers that blew millions and millions of dollars on elaborate booths decked out in jumbotron-sized plasma screens and the costs of flying in game makers, marketers and executives to Los Angeles for one week from around the world finally said "enough." E3 continued to lose its value each year. The show, while it grew in size and attendance (thanks in large part to the legions of fan boys allowed in until this past year), had lost its place in both the media and retail businesses. Game publishers like Electronic Arts, THQ, Sony, Konami, Capcom, Midway, Nintendo and Sony Online Entertainment were holding their own events for media in San Francisco and other locations that focused solely on their own games. Retailers have had their own event with game makers in a quiet setting called the IEMA Summit. In essence, the cost of holding the show far outweighed the publicity it generated.

There's not a single person in the videogame industry, outside of the Entertainment Software Association, which is the organization that rakes in millions from the event, that enjoys E3. It's a show that's become obsolete. For journalists, especially the official E3 judges like myself, we spend an entire week in April going from game company to game company looking at some of the top games early. Then in July, companies like EA start up again with better builds of E3 games. The industry has evolved over the past five years. E3 used to be THE place to announce new games, but that hasn't been the case in years. Most game publishers make big announcements well before the show. And they even reveal their line-ups before the show. The show itself is just a week-long nightmare for journalists who go from booth to booth trying to see as many games in as short a period of time as possible.

Ironically, this past year was the best E3 I have ever attended. The ESA finally put its foot down on some of the fan boys, turning away 11,000 applications this year. And the ban on booth babes stopped the clogging of the hallways, where fanboys would stand and gawk with cameras. It was easier to get around, and much quieter thanks to the new noise ordinances. But all of these changes came too late. At the end of the day, the show costs every game company a lot of money for not much return. And May is a bad month for games, because the builds shown are always too early to really judge the game on.

The new smaller E3 sounds like it will be more like the VSDA show or the past IEMA show, where suites are reserved for game companies to show press, buyers and invitees the latest games and systems. Exactly where in LA this venue will be remains to be seen. Vegas seems like a better venue for all-suite set-ups, but the game industry has stuck with LA (outside of a two-year stint in Atlanta) to be close to Hollywood.

For journalists, the game companies will likely do more one-off events to showcase their games throughout the year at a time when they feel is best for them, rather than being forced to show everything in May. For retailers, there will likely be meetings with buyers at smaller events.

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