I remember my first trip to E3 like it was yesterday. During the second year in Atlanta, I, along with other founders of CVGames, journeyed to E3 to witness the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 battle it out with Metal Gear Solid and Zelda 64 while the Saturn was slowly dying in a corner. Since that time, E3 has had its share of ups and downs. But after witnessing E3 2006, I never in my wildest dream expected to hear news about E3 changing and possibly ceasing to exist entirely.
For about three years now there have been rumors and speculations surrounding the game industry's biggest trade show closing their doors. As these rumors circulated around the web, industry leaders like EA, Sony, Microsoft, THQ, and others have all been complaining about the rising costs associated with putting a booth together at E3.
The ESA, who puts the Electronic Entertainment Expo together, is not responsible for how big E3 has become. As the years have gone by, the game companies have increased the amount of money they spend on their booths--with figures exceeding twelve million dollars in some cases! While not all Publishers spend that much, you can definitely see a difference in the traffic and and buzz surrounding the booths that cost less to put together.
But if Publishers were dissatisfied with the high costs associated with the show, why not limit the people attending the show? E3 should be an industry-only event for press, game developers, and other developers looking for publishers. The problem is that E3 has allowed employees from game stores and other retailers, the general public, and others that should not be there come into the show with relatively no problems.
Despite my feelings on the subject and the rumors that have quietly circulated for the past several years, nobody took it seriously that E3 would be shut down or changed. It came as a complete shock when I discovered reports that E3 was closed. But these rumors were officially responded to by the ESA this week. The news is not all good though.
First, it is true that there are several big-name Publishers that decided to pull out of the E3 Convention. But the ESA has decided to change the trade show forever by moving it into smaller conference style rooms, taking it out of the LA Convention Center, and limiting the number of people that attend the show to the press and other developers/publishers who have a need to be there. While the full details about where in LA the new E3 will take place and when it will happen have yet to be announced, we have been promised to be given more details in the coming months.
As I learned about the new plans for E3, I spoke to several colleagues in the industry. This includes other members of the press, hardcore videogame fans, casual gamers, and members of PR teams. For the fans, their reactions were not very positive. Some of them had snuck into E3 before and others had planned to get into the show in the next few years. PR and members of the gaming press, on the other hand, were mostly relieved to hear the news. As I have previously mentioned, I share the concerns about E3 getting too big. But will a smaller and less crowded E3 hurt the gaming industry? It may be hard to tell until we learn more about the ESA's plans for the new show. But if the industry doesn't support the new format, we can only hope that someone else will step in to bring us a new show, in another location, that can recreate the fun and excitement of the Electronic Entertainment Expo.