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Summary:

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, the simulation-infused game industry showcase that’s turned downtown Los Angeles into a digital supernova almost every May since 1995 is done. Following Friday rumblings about shows pending demise, E3 owner, the Entertainment Software Association, announced through spokesman Doug Lowenstein that the event […]

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, the simulation-infused game industry showcase that’s turned downtown Los Angeles into a digital supernova almost every May since 1995 is done. Following Friday rumblings about shows pending demise, E3 owner, the Entertainment Software Association, announced through spokesman Doug Lowenstein that the event was being drastically scaled back to become a more “targeted” event for industry members.

CNET’s Dan Terdiman has a good summary of the factors at play in this move, while industry site Next Gen offers 10 whole reasons for the fall. As someone who’s been to five of the last six E3s, my quick off-the-cuff take on the move is decidedly mixed:

1 – Less Booth Babes, Better Industry Profile: Desperate to win the attention of E3 attendees, publishers have staffed their booths with bevies of hot, increasingly naked babes– until E3 2006, that is, when the ESA finally put a curb on excessive curvaceousness. By then, of course, it was too late, for the whole thing had become a public relations disaster that conveyed to the outside world the not-inaccurate impression that the industry was dominated by cheesy sexists oblivious to the vast market for games outside the 18-34 dude demographic. Presumably, a smaller, more controlled E3 of the future will begin to repair this damage– a very big plus.


2 – More Game Press, Lower Industry Profile: As described, the new “targeted” version of E3 will cater even more aggressively to the gaming press. This is a problem, because gamer magazines and websites are notoriously uncritical of the industry’s offerings, dependent as they are on advertising from the major publishers, and a readership comprised almost exclusively of young male fanboys. This suggests future E3s will be overloaded with even more coverage skewed toward the top publishers and their big-budget action/sports titles– and even scanter attention paid to games that might appeal to women, kids, and older gamers. If this happens, the new E3 will continue to under-recognize and underserve whole markets.

3 – Less Gamers, More Spin-off Games: In his announcement, ESA’s Lowenstein says future E3s will create a “more personal dialogue with the worldwide media, developers, retailers”… oddly forgetting to name, you know, gamers. Many of the big budget offerings are spin-offs based on movies and other pre-existing intellectual property — games that are almost uniformly bad, and subsequently, mostly ignored by gamers. (E3 rule of thumb: if a booth is empty, good chance it’s showing a movie spin-off.)

Removing gamers from E3 insures an Expo targeted at retail buyers who don’t personally care about games, but do know that one based on the latest Disney movie will move off their shelves. And while game adaptations do sell well, they don’t do gargantuan business– none of the top-selling PC or console games are based on non-game IP. Without gamers at E3 to tell the retailers that, we’re bound to see much more of the same, with modest profits at the expense of new IP that grows the industry.

So my early take is this is a net loss– but paradoxically, a step in the right direction.

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  1. Actually the problem with the ‘gamer-less’, downscaling and relocation of the curvacious factor as you so judisciously put it, does nothing to solve the percieved problems with E3. It will do absolutely nothing to to help it and everything to destroy it. The equation is rather simple, what E3 doesnt have someone else, somewhere will. That someone else will gain in popularity in the ‘gamers’ market, those buggers that pay for games, chat on the internet in massive numbers, have parents who listen to them, and god forbid even work in the industry. Meanwhile, a few prudish tech geeks like yourself sit in your little offices, clapping yourselves on the backs for a rather sterile E3 that only YOU wish to see.
    Because with the advent of the communication technology that is now avilable out there, who even needs E3, except as a huge showcase of colour and sound and the expereince. Like an electronic Disneyland for young and old alike. Otherwise why bother? Just place web cams around a storehouse and show off the products from the factory sites. Ergo, no need for E3!
    E3 needs to be an expereince open for all in every way, to titillate the senses, the minds and NEEDS the WOW! factor. It needs to be bigger and brighter and an event that boggles the mind in so many ways. If it needs to possibly incorporate circus acts and a car show, candy floss and clowns so be it to keep people wanting to come back to it for several days. Electronics are in everything we virtually use today, so you can showcase just about anything at it! Animatronics, cars, planes, games, software, computers and accesories..You name it…it should be showcased and possibly even worked into different locations and themes.
    Don’t bore buyers and sellers to death as well as the customers, make it an expereince for all to enjoy!
    It should be an event everyone wants to see and not ‘have’ to go to it because their job demands it. Remember the old world trade fair events showcasing the future, you see sometimes in old TV shows, well thats what E3 should be. It should be about how the products can be the expereince (even fantasy) you will live. I think over all the one word I am looking for for E3 for be is ‘fun’.
    Statistics come on sheets, fun comes by living the expereince. People (the consumer and buyers) want to ‘buy’ that expereince and own it.
    Not to be bored to tears by it.

  2. I concur with the latter two points. It’ll be interesting how smaller and foreign publishers/developers will survive in the ‘intimate boys club’ E3.

    It’ll also be interesting to see if PAX scales up to embrace the gamer population, or if a new convention is launched to fill the void.

  3. I’ve been thinking about organising a Conference out here in Bangkok, Thailand where every delegate gets their very own booth babe (or boy) as part of the welcome pack. That way you don’t have to wander around finding the best booths.
    It will free up more time for interaction between delegates, allow more arm-waving (as they can carry your drink for you) and hugely increase the amount of freebies that you can carry out of the conference.
    Anyone who can think of a viable theme for this conference (except Mark Cuban) can have a job, for very low wages, organising it!

  4. I dont know if it is such a loss…besides some other conference will take its place pretty soon.

  5. PG full price games sales DOWN. Electronic Arts: $48 million loss for the last quarter. Console game sales flatlining. New PC sales in the home market down 35% in 2 years. Number of print PC gaming magazines down 40% in 3 years. Specific PC gaming websites, disappeared in the last 2 years. PC gaming chart, cannot be found anywhere anymore (unless you look really really hard). Quality of PC games, DOWN. Value of PC games DOWN. (3 years ago any $40 game with less than 30 hours of gameplay was seen as poor value, now we get a 5 hour game Half Life Episode 2 that costs up to $30 in various markets and other games that have less than 15 hours gameplay for $50. ‘Casual’ (mainstream) gamers are not buying into it, and casual gamers buy 73% of all full price PC games and 88% of budget releases.

    Pc gaming has about 18 months left to run. You only have to look at the death of Xmas PC releases for this Xmas season to see the writings on the wall.

  6. Ahhh but Microsoft has vowed to use all they have learned from their console wars to make Vista and the PC market that much better of a gaming platform. From not having to load games and running them direct from disc to automagically patching them over the interweb.

    I think what has happened to the PC gaming market is quite obvious to anyone who is actually involved with it: Blizzard released World of Warcraft and it’s now killing the rest of the pc gaming market, leaving all the other PC game companies to fight for the rest of the folks who have yet to discover Blizzard’s new comuter operating system, er massively multiplayer online game. As a serious (but recovering) addict of this game, I can tell you that it can suck the very need to eat and sleep right from you. Ask the Sony folks what it’s like to compete against Blizzard in this space and they will tell you tales of battle wounds, lost customers and price drops that have failed to garner more sales.

    Christmas won’t be that bad for PC gaming so long as the new World of Warcraft expansion pack comes out on time. :-)

  7. Less Babes? Less Gamers?

    You do mean “fewer,” right?

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