It was bound to happen. We predicted it would happen. It's happening... E3 has been shrunk down to size, and now somebody else wants to replace it with a new show, exactly the same as the old one. Big, glitzy, expensive, and ultimately self-defeating. Possibly not in the first year, or even in the second, but eventually it'll just become the untenable thing that E3 was this year.
The organizers of the Consumer Electronics Show, the big fish of big fishes where tech trade shows are concerned, have assembled what they're calling an "advisory committee to solicit gaming industry feedback and explore the viability of a West Coast event in late spring 2007 focused on the gaming and entertainment marketplace."
CES being in Vegas, maybe they'll stick it into that particular (proper) sin city, as our own Roberto wanted a while back. Down boy, you're a married man now, can't be at all that. Ultimately however this is a self-defeating exercise. It's one of those ideas that looks absolutely brilliant on paper, except for the fact that in practice it hasn't worked in the past - indeed, E3 isn't dead more than a couple of weeks at this stage.
Scroll back two weeks in the gaming universe and everywhere was abuzz with rumors of the death, demise and downsizing of the industries annual blow out in Los Angeles. The major publishers leaned in on the organisers, pointing out the huge costs of the event versus the low return in terms of hype generated, and decided to pull out.
There was shock, anguish, and a general cry of "Ohh, no!" among many fans and journalists alike. But why, should we lament the death of something which had surpassed its usefulness? It's simply not logical, in the words of one famous pointy eared fellow. The show simply got too big and too loud for its own good. The fact that companies have to spend double digit millions to get themselves seen and heard on the epileptics nightmare of a show floor speaks volumes - there's no PR return worth that sort of an investment.
Indeed the likes of Electronic Arts have been holding their own spectacular press-only preview events, complete with marching bands and keynotes from industry luminaries, after E3. These are far more effective, as the publishers can schedule around one another and grab the limelight all to themselves for a couple of days - unlike at E3, where time is precious and you're competing with your major rivals for airtime (thus spiralling costs to do so.)
A Lesson Learned, A Lesson Quickly Forgotten
A lot of stuff gets missed at E3, and at best you can consider it to be a mass human wave of PR that fills our heads and our offices so full of press kits that it takes journalists until around September, when the promised games actually start to get released en masse, to sort everything out and re-write the press releases into neat little previews. We'd be better off spacing these preview events out over the course of the summer, with Smaller-E3 being the press event to kick it all off still. We'd be able to sit down with developers for five hours of a day, rather than five minutes in an hour before rushing off to the next event.
I see the demise of E3 as a positive thing for the games industry - anyone who knows me vaguely at this stage knows that I don't suffer PR glitz gladly, and I much prefer the chance to be able to take a thoughtful look at the upcoming crop of games than have to watch a preview video in a glass case (so nobody nicks the screen); whilst the noise of the ten booths behind and around me provide distraction, with some PR guy whose themed name badge I'm not going to bother to read giving me a ream of features and cool notable points about the game that I Really Hope To God are going to be in the press pack he'll inevitably hand me, so that I may transcribe them later.
That was a long graph. Go back and read it four times without pausing for breath and you get an idea of what E3 is all about. Play several tracks of pop, rock and metal music together at once and at an obscenely high volume and you have an idea of E3 in a nutshell.
Of course, inevitably, after a year or two of no major lightshows some genius will get the idea of setting up another major tradeshow that will be E3 in spirit. Let's just hope they put it in a more agreeable venue - either somewhere calm and scenic, or somewhere properly dingy. LA is just too in-the-middle for me. And ohh wait, read back to the first couple of graphs of this article...
I'm going back to bed now until somebody has a good idea. I need a good six month rest anyways...
This is an adaptation of an article which originally appeared in the TwitchGuru Blog. Check it out!