Disclaimer: This views expressed in this article are those of the writer, and do not reflect the general opinions of The Gaming Vault or its staff, so take it as is.
Why do we still have E3?
Three years ago it was announced that 2006′s E3 event would be the last event of its kind in the gaming industry. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) decided that booths, booth babes, massive press conferences from everybody and a yearly takeover of the LA Convention Centre was not worth the time, effort and money to run anymore.
To be fair to the ESA, they had good intentions. E3 was originally set up to give some credence to the emerging industry as it was in 1995. By 2006, the games industry was one of the major economic earners in entertainment, and easy access to information via the internet had began to render the show a bit of an expensive, moot, point.
With 2007, and 2008, we saw smaller shows designed around the idea of intimacy. Less press were allowed on the venue, there were very few press conferences outside of the console holders (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) and less floor space was being used.
It was more like a trade show than a convention. As an idea this worked brilliantly – the industry didn’t need to represent itself in such a large way to be recognised, which was only a step forward. However the results for the ESA became more costly than keeping E3 as it was.
The lack of a big, universal press event meant there was a lack of big, universal crowds to announce new products and releases to. Development companies resorted to smaller conventions not affiliated with the ESA – shows run by the companies themselves. What this meant was bad for both the developers of hardware and software, and the ESA.
You see, E3 as it was gave ample press coverage. With hundreds of journalists walking the floor, you were guaranteed to get at least fifty different reports on the same product, and this generated hype, which could generate interest, which would generate sales.
A smaller E3 was not covered so well by the press – the small number of companies allowed a booth at the new E3 was enough to put most journalists off the cost of going there – and as such, after the dreary E307, many of the companies decided to default their announcements to their own shows, or shows of their respective publishers/console manufacturers.
Now somebody in the ESA forgot to tell the person who organises these things about the budget. ESA is a profit making organisation after all, and most of its profit for the first five years of this decade was from the fees companies and journalists paid to get entrance into E3. Less companies and journalists meant less money coming in, which lead on to E3 2007 being the first E3 to make a financial loss since its conception.
Either the ESA panicked or it really did lose a lot of money, as they jacked the fees right up for those companies who were unfortunate enough to be members. In 2006, total membership fees came to about $1million a year. At the end of 2008, this had jumped to $17.4million. So while it was never officially mentioned as such, it is entirely possible that companies such as Activision, id Software and Lucas Arts left the ESA simply so they wouldn’t have to pay a 1,700% fee markup for a sub-standard service.
With their wallet in trouble, and bleeding members, the ESA decided to lower the fees and bring E3 back into its original splendour. But now, after it has been and gone, was the show worth the time and effort, or has it finally run its course?
Personally, I feel that E3 2009 was a disappointment. This may be due to my own disillusioned fantasy of what usually happens at this convention, but hear me out.
This may be due to a lack of foresight on the ESA’s part – after all, it takes a year of planning from one E3 to another for a company to have a good show, and, at least publicly, the rumour that E309 was to bring back the old show style didn’t even circulate until October last year. But were there any real, massive, announcements that we didn’t already know about?
Lets run it down from the major three.
Microsoft had a very strong showing with its Project: Natal technology and its interactivity with the dashboard. But the camera itself was already common knowledge amongst those who follow the news (it had surfaced in patent pages and the name itself was referenced too many times) and the only real surprise was how effectively it actually worked (flailing stage hands aside).
Now I watched that show, the only truly exciting part of it for me was Hideo Kojima walking on stage and announcing that Metal Gear Solid: Rising was coming to the 360. An announcement that was lessened when it turned out that it is also coming to the PS3 and PC. Plus, I feel that Natal is doing nothing more than what the EyeToy did for the PS2 years ago, just a little more refined.
Then we have Nintendo. Dear god, do they still even deserve a space? I’m sorry but some announcements in the last 15 minutes about Mario Galaxy 2, a new Metroid, and some more information about Resident Evil and Dead Space, as exciting as they are, is no saviour for an hour and a quarter of stuff aimed towards people who do not even know the convention exists! Luckily we had some brief breaks in the tedium with the announcement of a new Kingdom Hearts and C.O.P. (which seems to be some generic action game, but action is action).
Then we have Sony… ah yes Sony. Surprisingly enough Sony had a good show. The new PSP was announced on the stage as having two names, the PSP Go and “the worst kept secret of this years E3”. We had the announcement of Sony’s own motion control system, some more information on a few previously mentioned releases, and a decent surprise announcement of FFXIV Online.
We had some good footage of some of the up and coming games (Uncharted 2 chief among them), and a demo of a new racer which looks a bit like Little Big Planet meets Mariokart.
But still, it left me lacking. Even the footage from the severely wanted Team Ico project (now known as The Last Guardian) was cleaned up stuff from what we had seen before.
My point is that E3 was created in a world where this kind of information was not easy to get to, let alone easy to leak. The break between the major shows of 2006 and 2009 was only three years, but in that time the speed at which information travels throughout the gaming networks has become unparalleled.
They can no longer have a special secret announcement at these shows, because you can guarantee somebody somewhere has leaked it out.
Yes, while E3 was never solely about the announcements, it was these that made it such a hotly anticipated event. While there were some from many of the companies, they couldn’t pull of the same jaw-droppers as they used to.
Is this is a downside to having been informed of the show’s size later than they should have been, or is it an indication that the show has run its course?
Next year is the decider. Lets hope they pick it up.