LEIPZIG, Germany--As the Games Convention in Leipzig finally draws to a close today, there's one question that everybody wants to ask--or at least that we want to ask--could it be the new E3?
The first incarnation of the Electronic Entertainment Expo was the video game trade show to end all video game trade shows, until last year when it was announced by organisers the Entertainment Software Association that it would be downsized and renamed the E3 Media and Business Summit. Attendance would be by invitation only, with the invitees being nominated by people within the games companies. Although the big three presentations by Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft were as spectacular as ever, attendance was slashed to 5,000 from some 60,000 the year before, and the Barker Hanger show floor was pleasingly queue-free, but also lacking in the pizazz, excitement, and size of that of previous events.
Since then, many shows have been touted as "being the new E3," and people are wondering which, if any, are going to step up to fill its oversized boots. The Tokyo Game Show has been named as one possible successor, as has the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, and with this year's record attendance numbers in Leipzig, could this outside contender be The One?
This year, 185,000 people came through the gates during the five-day show (183,000 in 2006), which was spread out over five halls, including a "business centre" only open to industry staff and journalists. There were 503 exhibitors (last year saw 374), and 12,300 trade visitors (from 8,700 last year), and 3,300 journalists from 46 countries (last year 2,610 from 38 countries). The percentage of non-Germans participating rose to 43 percent, a massive leap from last year, where only 24 percent were nonnative.
The Games Convention Developer Conference, which takes place just before the Games Convention proper opens its doors to the general public, also saw record numbers. Over 900 people attended this year, compared to 650 last year, and came from more than 35 different countries, with 60 percent from outside of Germany. This year's speakers for the event included Double Fine's Tim Schafer, Factor 5's Julian Eggebrecht, Epic Games' Mark Rein, and Silicon Knights' Denis Dyack.
There were mixed reactions from games industry personnel after the event. One US PR employee told GameSpot it was her first time at Leipzig, and that she had been unaware of the scale of the show. She said, "I was totally amazed at how big the show was. It really seemed like a combination of E3 and GDC." However, she didn't think that it would be replacing the US-based event, although other contenders might step up to the plate. She's putting her bets on PAX, Penny Arcade's Expo currently taking place in Seattle. She said, "It has more than doubled this year and it seems that almost every publisher is participating. It seems like PAX, more than any other show in the US, has really seen the most growth since the cancellation of E3. It definitely could overshadow the 'new E3,' which got very mixed reviews."
A Canadian game company CEO told GameSpot that he had been impressed by the massive show floor, but felt that with approximately 50 percent of attendees being German, the event wasn't truly international enough to rival E3. He said, "The floor show was certainly full on, which is reminiscent of E3, from a marketing spend and exposure standpoint. The business services were good as well, and I appreciated the business/trade-only day on the Wednesday. But it just wasn't international." He added that in order for the event to truly be a rival of the old-style E3, it would need to attract more international contenders, particularly from America and Japan.
A British PR manager said he was also impressed with how the event had expanded since the last one he went to the year before last. However, he too stopped short of saying that the event could be the new E3, since the area lacked the infrastructure to deal with the onslaught of attendees. He said, "The amount of announcements made this year by hardware manufacturers show how important they think it is, that's for sure. Although I personally don't know if it will rival E3...but the city itself doesn't seem to be able to accommodate these events. Some games company people that I know were forced into staying 30 miles away from the venue, and others were camping out if you can believe that."
However, he added that he thought the venue itself was world-class, with everything being clearly signposted in English, great catering, and the staff polite and helpful.
A Canadian games developer told GameSpot that he wasn't going to sit on the fence--no way did he think that GC could be the next E3. But that was nothing personal, he simply believes that the huge trade show event idea has had its day. He told GameSpot, "I think GC is a great place, but I don't think it will be the next E3 because I think the value in those shows is really going away. I think as a development environment it has been excellent and I really like the conference hall."
It was his first time here, he added, as it was for many international attendees, showing that the Games Convention had a higher profile this year overseas. But I think the whole idea of showing a lot of games in one open forum, there's too many games right now and people aren't getting enough attention, and I think a lot of the publishers and developers are having their own private showings where they can get all the attention. Quite frankly, it's easier on the press as well, because it's not so compressed, and you don't have to do a preview off of two minutes of gameplay. So I think that closed shows are going to be the way that it goes."
One thing certainly impressed a veteran American games journalist. He said, "The booths were certainly reminiscent of the old E3--I even saw two booth babes wearing nothing but G-strings and body paint which was rapidly melting off in the heat. No uptight orders to cover up here, they're Europeans for heaven's sake! Rock on!"
Next year's Games Convention Developer Conference will be held in Leipzig from August 18-20, 2008. The Games Convention typically runs directly after the GCDC, meaning that next year's is more than likely going to take place August 20-24, 2008.