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E3 Cancelled?
July 30, 2006 3:49 PM   Subscribe

E3 is finished. Or maybe not. The video game trade show was long known for long lines, unruly fans, and people who weren't supposed to be there. Will a combination of fan supported gaming conventions and corporate sponsored events pick up the slack?
posted by zabuni (24 comments total)

Oh, well...we can hang the banners in the front lobby. If anyone here has an anniversary coming up, we can give you one of the booth babe costumes and the address of a good tailor...
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:11 PM on July 30, 2006

While I really enjoyed sitting at home and watching the live conferences and following all the drama (Nintendo hysteria, Sony humbled, "Attack it's weakpoint for massive damage!") it has occured to me what a colossal waste of time and money these companies must be spending to one up eachother. So while I think it's a good thing I will kinda miss it.
posted by bobo123 at 4:33 PM on July 30, 2006

Aaaaw, and I was so sure that next year's E3 would be the year Duke Nukem Forever would be displayed to the gaming public.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:55 PM on July 30, 2006

I certainly hope this is just a bad rumor. I do not want to see E3 fade away. I love that week of wild gaming abandon: playing the demos, talking to the industry folks, and just generally absorbing all the game-centric ambiance.

You'll hear far too many people complain about the long lines and the slovenly people drooling over booth babes and so forth, but the important thing is to look beyond that. I absolutely love covering the event. If this is the end of E3 then I'm glad to have two of the shows under my belt. Smaller individual events may better suit the publishers, but as a writer and a fan I'll miss the week of surprises and excitement.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:05 PM on July 30, 2006

The big losers here are the small game sites, and small developers. While large websites and print magazines can afford to go to multiple events, a lot of the smaller sites really really like the one stop shop that e3 was. Small developers neither have the clout or the money to create their own media extravaganzas.

One of the saddest reasons for the whole ordeal seams to be the rise of small media like blogs. From the Ars Technica article:

One source I spoke with told me that media access is indeed a problem, but it probably does not factor in greatly to the decision to downsize the show. Nevertheless, there are plenty of complaints from insiders about how "blogging" in particular has made the shows more difficult, if only because floor people are instructed to speak only of what they are approved to speak of, lest another half-baked headline make the rounds.

It's kinda similar to the the movie industry and people text messaging how bad a movie is. They want greater control of who gets to see things, and what they have to say.
posted by zabuni at 5:13 PM on July 30, 2006

It's all about three little letters -- ROI.

Ideally, E3 is about the buyers. The single most important guest at the show would be the head buyer for Wal-Mart. Everything else would be secondary.

But instead, the show morphed into a media extravaganza with tens of thousands of non-buyers walking around, doing nothing except swallowing up swag and filling the aisles. Which is fine, if that's the point -- these are your early adopters, after all, the guys most likely to buy everything in sight and influence their friends. But then the question is, are you getting an appropriate ROI for your media extravaganza? And are you selling to the buyers appropriately (and can you do that better on a 1-to-1 basis)?

The big losers here are the small game sites ...

That will always happen, for the same reasons -- ROI. In this case, the investment is time and attention, and the return is eyeballs. "Dave's Steelers Web Page" doesn't get press passes to the Super Bowl. Sports Illustrated does. Even the "big three" game sites -- GameSpy, GameSpot, IGN -- are secondary to print magazine schedules and some mainstream media figures.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of complaints from insiders about how "blogging" in particular has made the shows more difficult, if only because floor people are instructed to speak only of what they are approved to speak of, lest another half-baked headline make the rounds.

This is such a weird circle. Small sites and blogs can't get appointments. So they talk to the floor people, who are often assistant producers and low-level PR types that are not media savvy, prone to letting slip info that is sometimes just plain wrong ("Yeah, this game will have Feature X ... and the game is shipping on Date Y.") So, the publishers spend time trying to educate the floor types, who often misread or ignore the instructions. So the wrong info hits the blogs overnight. Then the publishers complain about the need to deal with the small-fry media in the first place, and become overly eager to deny them appointments where they might've talked to someone more valuable.

At some point, someone stands up and says, "Wait a minute ... how much are we spending on this?"
posted by frogan at 5:48 PM on July 30, 2006

Having been to the last two shows, I completely agree that the booths are getting out of hand. (I think the indoor half-pipe was the worst offender.) I'm sure that the return on their investment doesn't make it worth it. But their solution is to cancel the show? That's insane. No one's forcing them to go so far overboard.

Maybe someday the creative, original games will be the most popular, and the flashy derivitive ones will be ignored. Ah, well, I can dream, can't I?
posted by Sibrax at 6:29 PM on July 30, 2006

Look, the indoor half pipe was awesome.
posted by boo_radley at 6:52 PM on July 30, 2006

Since I've worked the insane crunchs that usually precedes an E3 demo I can't say I would be sad to see it go. Although E3 often had some kind of a catalyst effect that made things fall into place a lot faster than they usually were.

Anyway there's been a trend of presenting titles behind close doors and if it were to continue most of the expo would be available to press/buyers only.

With the insane prices publishers pay for booths, renting the floorspace, manpower, flying their people over there. I can see why they think it's costing too much. As for the small developpers, I don't think they actually have the money it takes to be at E3 and really attract some attention from the press/buyers so any change in the formula can only be good for them.

This reminds me of when I was working for a much smaller company in the DCC tools businness. At that time the big events were SIGGraph/NAB/IBC. Turns out even the sales people thought all those events were not worth what we were paying for and at some point decided that just renting hotel rooms near the convention and inviting people for 1 on 1 sessions was a much better way of promoting our products. And you can actually serve them food + drinks if you do that, doing that in the convention centers forces you to buy everything from them at outrageous prices.
posted by coust at 7:01 PM on July 30, 2006

Screw the halfpipe, what will we do without kentia hall?
posted by bob sarabia at 7:06 PM on July 30, 2006

Maybe it's because they banned the hot booth babes.
posted by drstein at 7:57 PM on July 30, 2006

Well, I know without Kentia, I wouldn't be up to my ass in $20.00 NES clones.
posted by boo_radley at 8:49 PM on July 30, 2006

frogan- part of the problem was due to Best Buy. the store expressed a great deal of interest in the event; when distributors arranged for special promos, Best Buy sent employees who racked high monthly sales to the events, rather than executives. With all the low-level BB staff grabbing up swag intended for bigwigs, a number of publishers (big and small alike) were furious that the BB reps with the greatest ability to place orders decided to treat the outing as a vacation. That wasn't altogether different from COMDEX's demise, and there was talk of using Penny Arcade's PAX and other gatherings as alternatives to E3. The proposed changes are certainly helping the organizers shoot themselves in the foot through the creation of new problems.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:23 PM on July 30, 2006

those were unruly fans?
posted by tsarfan at 11:48 PM on July 30, 2006

Ideally, E3 is about the buyers. The single most important guest at the show would be the head buyer for Wal-Mart. Everything else would be secondary. But instead, the show morphed into a media extravaganza...

No, E3 was about the media. Press = hype = sales. The head buyer for Wal-Mart doesn't necessarily care if it's the kind of game that he's excited about. What he cares about is what the buzz is (and what the expected sales numbers are). Getting post-E3 buzz (like Half-Life 2, like Grand Theft Auto 3 before it, and like Spore now) is a really good indication of how the game will do in the market.

That doesn't change the fact that the rest of your points are right-on. There were tons of people there who "shouldn't" have been. Like me and boo_radley in 2k5! Wooo!
posted by Plutor at 4:37 AM on July 31, 2006

Good riddance.

As a fan I'd rather go to expos such as PAX, where I know I'm welcome. (Not that I've ever been to E3.)

But if developers and publishers want to push their wares to one another why do they need big flashy booths with scantily clad chicks? Is the same phenomenon present at trade-shows for auto-manufacturers and other industries? Why do they market to their competitors and the press this way? Just so they can show how much money they can throw around?

I'd have to agree with coust in one-on-one face time being more important with a potential buyer or client. That might also make the presentation more memorable, instead of one booth amongst a thousand with free swag.

But I'm not an industry-insider. What do I know? Maybe you need to blow a million to make a billion.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 4:39 AM on July 31, 2006

Press = hype = sales

Well, thanks for answering my questions Plutor. That explains it. I should have previewed.

But TV and print/web advertisements already cost billions, that doesn't do enough to spread the word?
posted by Colloquial Collision at 4:42 AM on July 31, 2006

posted by coust at 12:16 PM on July 31, 2006

I'm glad they're re-envisioning E3. It turned into something completely different than what it was intended and was really trying to be a million things at once, a press event, a buyer's event, and an amusement park. Despite the fact that "E3Expo" is a redundant name, I'll be interested to see if they can refocus on doing just one of those things well. As it was, it wasted lots of publishers' money, developers' time, and gamers' dignity.
posted by Durhey at 1:46 PM on July 31, 2006

Part of me is bummed, and yes Kentia Hall was great this year (flying the sim B-29 was pretty kickass), but the other part of me is relieved. E3 got so huge that it was hard to have fun there, and damn near impossible to do any networking at my level in the biz.

And yeah, this means no April-May crunch, hooray!!
posted by zoogleplex at 1:48 PM on July 31, 2006

Having worked in a pretty major capacity for one of the big three since E3's inception, I am thinking a lot about the ripple effect. There were a LOT of people that worked on these tradeshows. Just the "booths" employed massive amounts of people for quite a long time before each show.

May be slightly OT, but I'm sure there are a bunch of people that are pulling out a pretty big plan B for their businesses right now.

Just makes me realize how huge the gaming industry has become.
posted by Occams Hammer at 4:55 PM on July 31, 2006

Meh, so instead of crunching for a demo we'll crunch for another playtest.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:08 PM on July 31, 2006

Colloquial Collision : "Is the same phenomenon present at trade-shows for auto-manufacturers and other industries?"

Whoa yes. In fact, I believe the booth babe phenomenon started with auto shows.
posted by Bugbread at 9:10 PM on July 31, 2006

"Meh, so instead of crunching for a demo we'll crunch for another playtest."

Better than crunching for both simultaneously, which we did on two games for the last E3. *shudders*
posted by zoogleplex at 2:32 PM on August 1, 2006

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