For years and years video and PC game developers have complained about the annual trade show-party-demo fest called the Electronic Entertainment Expo. For many of these developers E3 was becoming too big, too expensive and too time consuming to create a demo to be shown to retailers, publishers and the press that ultimately might be overlooked. However, despite rumors of major publishers getting annoyed at the cost of E3 every May it looked like the show would go on.
Then in the summer of 2006, the hammer fell. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the trade organization of the video and PC game industry and the organizers of E3, announced that the annual trade show version of the expo was no more. Instead of the massive 60,000 + attendee show at the Los Angeles Convention Center, E3 would now be a small event in Santa Monica, CA. The amount of attendees would be limited to between 3,000 and 4,000 people and those folks would be invited to attend by the video and PC game publishers. Presentations would be made not in massive exhibits with blinding lights but in intimate hotel room suites. Finally the show dates would be moved from May to July
The inital response to the changes was mixed. For some this was the E3 they were hoping for; a chance to really show off their upcoming games to the invitees without a lot of pressure. However, others wondered if this was too much of a change. Shouldn't there be an industry sponsored event that not only served as a way to see upcoming games but also was a celebration of the industry in general.
Since the changes for E3 2007 were announced many trade shows announced plans to expand, including this August's Penny Arcade Expo and the Game Developers Conference. Later in 2006, the trade show company IDG, with the blessing of the ESA) announced the E For All Expo, a new show that debuts in October in E3's old LA Convention Center home. Unlike both versions of E3, this new show would allow ordinary gamers with no connections to the industry to attend the show and play games that will be released this holiday season (the busiest time of the year for the industry).
While it's likely that the new, smaller E3 will generate a ton of media exposure the truth is that this new invite show will likely not have as much of an impact as the old version did. Indeed this month publishers are announcing a number of new games that normally would be announced at the old May E3 date. July will likely have some new game announcements as well but its clear that publishers are not waiting around for July to make some major game announcements.
FiringSquad wanted to find out from game developers how they feel about the new E3 show now that more details have been released. Our polling of developers still suggests that there is a lot of debate about how the new E3 will work.
So will the new E3 be an improvement over the old show? Derek Smart, the head of 3000AD, told us, "I am in two minds about it really. For one thing, to me, E3 lost its spark several years back. Which is probably why it was decimated (reborn?) to begin with. For many years now, E3 stopped being about 'the games and those who make and publish them' and more about stupidity, shock value, controversies (e.g. over booth babes) and the like. For most of us, it was more a chance to get away from the office and hang out with our friends and buddies. Of course, on the other hand, it was also a nightmare because most publishers wanted games to be shown at the event. More often than not, games which weren't even close to being released, but which, in the months leading up to E3, had to be 'worth' showing. That, in itself, killed the whole excitement of going for some developers. So no, the fact that the invites show the same usual suspects, I can't imagine how parring it down would make a difference at all. Thats like throwing a party and only inviting neighbors who live in even numbered homes. You still get the same rowdy bunch; albeit in smaller numbers but you still have the risk of the cops showing up and telling everyone to keep the noise down."