Spot On: E3 absentees sound off

Many publishers and developers are steering clear of next week's trade show--they explain to GameSpot what's keeping them away.

After months of uncertainty, next week the gaming industry will finally experience the new E3 Media & Business Summit. The event is the dramatically overhauled successor to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which had been the central event of the North American game industry for the previous 12 years.

E3 at the LACC.

Though it began as a modest trade show in 1995, E3 had become a deafening spectacle by 2006. Within weeks of the event's doors closing last May, many members of the Entertainment Software Association, E3's organizing body, decided the show had simply become too big, too loud, and too expensive for most exhibitors. "Some companies were frustrated because E3 was such a huge, sweeping event it became increasingly difficult to get their messages out," said former ESA president Doug Lowenstein.

Before he resigned last December, Lowenstein also promised the rechristened E3 Business & Media Summit would be drastically smaller than its predecessor. Whereas E3 2006 boasted more than 400 exhibitors and 60,000 attendees, E3 2007 is expected to draw just 36 participating companies and roughly 5,000 "invited guests."

The show floor has also been downsized, with the cavernous Los Angeles Convention Center abandoned in favor of the much smaller Barker Hangar in nearby Santa Monica. The landscape inside the venue will also be drastically different. Instead of the towering, neon-soaked edifices that dominated the interior of the LACC, Barker Hanger will feature subdued, standardized booths in two sizes--10-by-10 feet and 20-by-20 feet. "The customization options will be really limited both inside and outside [the booths]," a rep for a major exhibitor told GameSpot. "They will pretty much all look the same."

Barker Hangar, site of E3 2007.

Also, the E3 conference program--which used to feature leading industry luminaries' keynotes--has been cut entirely. Indeed, much of the real business of the show won't take place at Barker Hangar at all. The vast majority of product previews will be held in private suites rented by publishers, several of which have outsourced staffing of their show-floor booths to external exhibition companies.

So what do these changes mean? Will they help streamline E3 by eliminating the chaos caused by tens of thousands of nonessential attendees stampeding between booths? Or, have they gutted the event, turning it into a hollow proceeding with a dubious raison d'etre?

In the days before E3 2007 unofficially kicks off with Microsoft's press conference next Tuesday night, GameSpot will be running interviews with the heads of several major publishers in attendance. Today, though, we check in with a series of companies who are skipping this year's expo--both voluntarily and involuntarily--to see how they feel about the new E3.

An ersatz Rachel from Ninja Gaiden at Tecmo's E3 booth in 2004.

One of the biggest publishers absent from this year's event is Tecmo. Though its E3 booths evoke lighthearted memories of its cavalcade of scantily clad "booth babes," the Japanese publisher of the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series was deadly serious about why it opted out of E3 2007.

"New show management didn't seem to know what they were doing," Tecmo vice president John Inada told GameSpot. "I don't have money to waste on an experimental project. Previously, we were not treated very nicely by the old E3 management, so we didn't feel obligated to cooperate this year. I also heard that a lot of the [retail] buyers weren't coming."

Indeed, retail participation at the event will be a shadow of its former self. A GameStop representative said the company had "limited folks" attending the show, and other retailers have opted out entirely--causing some publishers to follow suit.

"GameStop's not really going to be there, Best Buy's not going to be there," complained a source close to a large publisher not attending E3. "Why should we bother dealing with the ESA's confusion when we can meet with our retail partners separately and then stage our own gamers' day event later on in the year where we set the rules? It just doesn't make any sense."

Those issues aside, the source told GameSpot the main issue was cost. "A standard-size space on the LACC floor costs around $50,000. For us to get a similar amount of space in a Santa Monica hotel would have cost us around $100,000." However, reps for another publisher attending the event claimed that they were saving "a huge amount of money" by renting a hotel suite and renting out one of the smaller Barker booths. "They're quite reasonable," one rep said of the booths.

GameCock's new game Hail to the Chimp.

Cost and retailer presence were also reasons for Gamecock Media Group to balk at the idea of attending, although its participation would have been unexpected at best. After all, the company was only recently founded by Mike Wilson and Harry Miller, former executives at the now-defunct publisher of Max Payne, Gathering of Developers. Gathering of Developers was never an official part of the Los Angeles-based E3 shows, but it always made a spectacle of itself with its carnival-like events featuring pole dancers and transvestites at an empty lot across the street from the LACC.

But to hear Wilson tell it, even that level of spectacle was affordable compared to being in the real E3. "Even at the very biggest, when we had a Jumbotron out there and a stage and bands and dancers and all this stuff, we could give away beer and barbecue to 10,000 people every year, and it still cost a fraction of what a modest booth inside the show would cost," Wilson said.

"At the convention center, the show had become, 'How much money can I spend this year?' which is why the big guys pulled out in the first place. And it was all union labor. You couldn't set up your own booth. You couldn't even plug in your own computers without paying somebody $150 and waiting for them to come plug your computer in for an hour."

(Also driving up the cost was the fact that, once the show started, exhibitors were forced to use the LACC's bland-but-expensive catering services: At E3 06, a cold-sandwich lunch for around 50 people cost upward of $2,000.)

In the tradition of the Gathering of Developers, Gamecock is instead setting up its own operation. The publisher's Expo for Interactive Entertainment, Independent and Original (EIEIO) will showcase Gamecock games like Wideload's Hail to the Chimp and Red Fly Studios' Mushroom Men concurrently with E3 at a hotel nearby the official show venues. Wilson said the publisher had originally intended to hold an event where an array of indie publishers could showcase their games to the press, but things just didn't come together quickly enough.

For some publishers, attending E3 wasn't even an option. Ken Berry, head of sales and marketing at XSEED Games (Brave Story: New Traveler, Wild ARMs 5), said his company was told it needed an invite to the event, just like attendees from the press and industry. And even with an invite, Berry echoed others' issues concerning the cost of the event and communication with show management.

"Assuming we had a chance to participate, the costs of securing a meeting area in one of the hotels, from what I've heard indirectly through third parties, would have been cost-prohibitive for us," Berry told GameSpot. "Setting up a small booth in the hangar may have been an option, but once again we never had all the required information so we couldn't make an informed decision." (NOTE: XSEED will be showing off games live as part of GameSpot's E3 Stage Show.)

Berry said E3 is still likely to be the most important industry event of the year. But nowhere will the old E3 be missed more than at the small game companies that veteran game publicist Tom Ohle has long represented. Despite being relegated to the infamous Kentia Hall last year, Ohle helped the European RPG The Witcher get picked up by Atari for North American publishing. Now director of Evolve PR, Ohle remains sold on the merits of the show's old format.

Kentia Hall--it lives now, only in our memories...

"E3 was always the one event you could attend to meet with pretty much every writer, PR and marketing rep, studio exec, et cetera in the industry," Ohle said. "As a developer or publisher, you could show your game to practically everyone who mattered. Plus, it was an awesome place to network and just to hang out with friends you didn't get to see much."

Even though "practically everyone who mattered" only made up a portion of the thousands upon thousands of attendees, Ohle said even the riffraff had its upside.

"I used to complain a lot about all of the EB Games assistant-to-the-assistant store managers running around the show, but fact is, they got a ton of buzz going about the biggest products," he told GameSpot. "I don't think you're going to have people roaming the streets of Santa Monica, yelling, 'You have to head to Nintendo's hotel right now! There's a two-hour lineup!'"

Not everyone has started getting wistful for the old format, however. Though his own Wahoo Studios was not invited to E3 07, Saga producer Jason Faller thinks the new format could fix some serious flaws with the old show.

"Truth be told, E3 has never been that great to us for networking," Faller said. "In fact, everyone's so busy and burnt out at E3 that it's hard to get anyone to be serious at all about any deals or proposals or ideas; it's really just a first contact and a face-to-face opportunity to meet all those people you had phone calls with in prior months. I imagine the new format would be better in this regard: less people, less noise, better business. Who knows? Maybe we've made a mistake in not attending."

So instead of going to E3, Faller said he went to the Game Developers Conference earlier this year and is planning to attend the consumer event GenCon in August.

"I don't think I'm boycotting the 'New E3' because I think it's unimportant," Faller said. "I just don't feel that I belong there. It was made without me in mind...at GDC and GenCon, I can appeal directly to shop owners, press attendees, and publisher reps in a casual environment where my spiked hair and two-day stubble come off as confident, even sometimes intimidating to the white-running-shoed, tucked-logo-embossed-golf-shirted guys that I've dealt with in the past at the shows."

Santa Monica Pier, site of GameSpot's E3 2007 HQ.

GDC and GenCon aren't the only possible replacement events. A representative with SNK Playmore (of King of Fighters and Metal Slug fame) said that the publisher is steering clear of this year's E3 because of the cost and layout of the event. Instead, it will look elsewhere for opportunities to show its wares to retail buyers and the press. Specifically, the representative mentioned Sony's retail-only Destination PlayStation event as the most important in the industry when it comes to buyers. However, SNK Playmore believes a second event of some sort is needed.

It isn't just a preference for the old E3 format that has kept some companies from participating in this year's event. Hothead Games CEO Vlad Ceraldi suggested that both iterations of the show could be made irrelevant for those working in the rising field of downloadable games.

"E3 has never been about gamers," Ceraldi said. "The show has historically been about appealing to the needs of traditional retail channels. Hothead's focus is on the opportunities created by digital distribution and the closer relationship a publisher can have with the gamers themselves."

Still, even downloadable game developers need to get the word out somehow, so Hothead Games will be showcasing its episodic PC adventure game Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness at consumer-focused shows like the Penny Arcade Expo (naturally) and San Diego Comic-Con.

While a number of the publishers GameSpot contacted said they would consider participating in next year's E3 (some on the condition that the format is further tweaked), multiple representatives said they didn't believe there would be an E3 at all next year. Gamecock is even referencing that notion in its EIEIO event, which will cap off with a funeral service for the ESA's long-standing trade show.

"We're going to have some fun on the beach and say good-bye to the magical beast of yore that was E3," Wilson said. "I'd say there's a fair chance there won't be a show called E3 anything next year, which is why we're saying farewell to it on the beach. But I can't wait to see what emerges."

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456 comments
hooperfax006
hooperfax006

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

hooperfax006
hooperfax006

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

brutalbrian
brutalbrian

This is another shining example of the gaming industry shunning its most important audience, us the gamers. I think if things keep going the way they are, I am gonna turn my back on this generation of console gaming and PC gaming and stop playing video games altogether. E3 before was a blessing in disguise, lots of people I talked to always said it was a swinging party, and now that is gone. This should tell us all something, and I know where I can put my money from now on.

DeathgiverX
DeathgiverX

Well I am bummed since I never got to go. Oh well, maybe this will teach the ESA a lesson.

IGDetail
IGDetail

Like the CEO of EA says, the industry is consistently boring us gamers to death. If you don't give game companies a reason to show, they're just not going to. I don't think the spirit of E3 is dead though. Someone smart enough will come along and pick this up and make it a full-out event for everyone.

quietguy
quietguy

Sorry peeps. It's all about business... unfortunately.

zaphod_b
zaphod_b

I will miss all the buzz that has surrounded E3 for the last 12 years, but that convention was never meant to be about gamers. Over the last few years it kept getting crazier and crazier as more gamers found their way into the show, and the ESA decided to change the format. I can't blame them, though it sounds like they may have turned it into something equally unsuited for developers and retailers. Oh well. At least I have Gamespot.

cheesytaco69
cheesytaco69

These dumbasses don't realize that there is money to be made here! If you let us pay to get in than we will! We will pay a lot to get in! We'd enjoy it and you'd be making money.

SilentHunter7
SilentHunter7

E3 was the personality of hardcore gamers, embodied into a convention format; it was loud, unpredictable, and sometimes obnoxious. Gamers are not quiet and soft-spoken. They are not pompous business owners. They are not subtle. This shift goes against all that is gaming, and I am supremely disappointed.

Staryoshi87
Staryoshi87

New E3 sucks, to put it bluntly. It was never really needed to establish business deals with potential retailers.... that's cake... it's supposed to be about the fun and the games. Without the booth babes and crazyness that was E3, this is a crock that I'll be passing on... Hopefully the conferences will make up for it.

the_watcher2004
the_watcher2004

Damn the Entertainment Software Association for killing E3 i knew i when they said it in 2006 that this would be a bad idea... i hate corperate dumasses thinking they alway know whats best.

olthof
olthof

damn you, i was holding on to the dream of someday flying to LA from Sydney and having a crazy E3 week when i can afford it. Now its gone, i hope another show will come that will be open to the public, massive and noisy, booth babes and all. the gaming world needs its mecca!

DasFlesh
DasFlesh

While the other ones might have been expensive for companies. Think about how this one will change cost too. Less people there means less money as well. The greatest thing about E3, while maybe big, was the excitement it brought. Lots of people means something is going on. Maybe tone it down a little but revamping it like this ruined everything and basically restarted it all as something that can't be E3. Yes its supposed to be about games, but the extra bells and whistles are what make an expo and expo.

TheHunter112
TheHunter112

sob....GOODBYE E3! You will be missed by your fans! But what will the off-spring behold? Lets just wait and see.

RockmanEB
RockmanEB

I'll miss the old E3... RIP E3 for me 2000~2006... (but it is true...2004-2006 there were just TOO MANY people)

ElmorePOW
ElmorePOW

I wonder how this will affect to us who follows this event from our homes... Hope it makes no difference. Well, I'm sure to get my MGS and Killzone goodies anyways!

Chainblast
Chainblast

The greatest thing about the old format was everything happened in one place. But something had to be done to curb the obnoxious event it had become, although the basic concept was still good. What they turned it into sounds like...crap. Oh well, rock-on GDC. \m/

panpeter84
panpeter84

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

cartoonrick
cartoonrick

I have some big questions. Who is making the money from this convention. The ESA? How much money was made from previous years of conventions? Game Development and companies are spending money to be there so the can't be making a single cent. Who walks out with the bags of money to get stolen in front of Peter Parker. WHO SCREWS PETER PARKER OUT OF HIS MONEY?

Dadriverman
Dadriverman

"E3 Media & Business Summit" What a joke of a title. What's it all about now? seems to me that they want to kill it...and do it as painfully as they can.

PatLTornado
PatLTornado

So long E3. You were America's only hope for expanding the gaming industry for 12 years. You bought publicity,babes, and great gaming trailers and now you've sold yourselfs out for money. I wont miss you because the industry is already headed in the wrong direction.

cell_dweller
cell_dweller moderator moderator

It's dissapointing that they couldn't keep many of the big names. I hope that after this year, they do some real impressing, and maybe some butt kissing to get them back.

jcloverboy
jcloverboy

There were ways of downsizing it without making it seem unappealing. Seems like they took out way too much. Now I've never attended an E3 event but I used to always look forward to the constant information coming across the internet. Be a shame for us to lose that.

Razzi65
Razzi65

wel...hope it gonna b fair...

Chirico_Cuvie
Chirico_Cuvie

This year will be rough while they work out the kinks and see how everything works. I predict E3 will go back to a form of its former self, but with strict policies on admittance and booth size. Maybe a change of venue to the LA County Fairplex.

Get_Shorty
Get_Shorty

That's what E3 gets for downsizing... now their profits will downsize. No boothbabes or anything for gamers to look at. This years E3 a "stinker"

woody4077
woody4077

the ESA can do what they want I D C, cuz they still did correct what i feel was the biggest flaw E3 had.....ITS STILL OFF-LIMITS TO THE PUBLIC thats something i wish they would have incorporated from TGS(tokyo game show); anyone in japan can buy a ticket to TGS

chang_1910
chang_1910

as long as they give me the updates and trailers.. they can do the show in private suites, hangar and even a lil shack if they want... :lol: :P what i ddi not like about the cut-off??? the fact that a lot less companies (gaming) would be part of the show. Which means >>> less trailers, news and updated, which is the point of this show after all ..... but oh well :?

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

I think that the ESA just didn't nail down WHAT the new E3 is supposed to be about. So, all companies are looking at it and going: "What am I supposed to do here? Who do I talk to? Is this worth it?" The ESA needed to better define what the purpose of the new event is and guide companies into how it will benefit each of them. The retailers, publishers, developers, et cetera all need a pre-defined expectation of what their role is in the new event. Without giving them the correct guidance, E3 has the possibility of becoming a past-time event that does not surface ever again. I really hope the ESA gets their act together on this because I still feel that a more focused event like this can work, but only if all the right people show up.

GamesAnytime
GamesAnytime

First off, this " Show " is NOT E3, It's jus a bunch of mini conventions scattered around the Santamonica Pier, and I am pretty sure it wont work for a lot of people. I really dont think It'll be comming back net year, sounds more messy than fun.

MrSickVisionz
MrSickVisionz

They should make something like the old E3, except open it up to consumers @ like $20 a day. I always wanted to goto one because it looked like a blitzkreig of gaming goodness. Like they stuffed all of Tokyo and Las Vegas into a building. Now that will never happen. Heres hoping some other company makes like a Consumer Gaming Expo thats the spectacle of the old days, but open to anyone willing to pay.

s0njas0n
s0njas0n

booth babes are not necessary... come on guys...

Sharik24
Sharik24

Oh noes not Gamecock and Bestbuy! They will be ruined if they don't show up at E3, or aptly renamed E3 Business Expo Edit: Moneymoneymoneymoneymoneymoneymoneymoneymoneymony

Tingle-Tuner
Tingle-Tuner

I certainly will miss the big neon light shows... and the booth babes.

speedy2295
speedy2295

i hope somebody comes up with an E3 esa or otherwise like the one's of old save the booth babes!

JJames3dCG
JJames3dCG

Let me preface this with saying that I myself have never been to E3. So i can't say for sure one way or the other if this truly is a good or bad thing. I understand the point of the show last year turning too much into a "funfest" instead of a business affair....but we are talking about games here. The basis of games is fun. And what's more fun than the 12 year old tradition of E3? Now to "Downsize" and cram E3 into a hangar is just typical business format. It's such a shame. Make sure you zap all the fun out of a previously well known and much anticipated annual Video Game event. And standardizing all the booths? That's just the sort of thing that some hack decision maker, penny pinching, non-video game enthusiast would do. "We need to save some more money, cause we all know that games are money, and money is good!" It just shows that there's nothing left in this world that can be safe from the grasp of the money hungry business man that runs everything.....including our beloved games. Farewell E3. You will be missed even by those of us who only got to read about it in the news.

Sonovius
Sonovius

"No retailers, no gamers, who the heck are they setting up the booths for?" the press who writes previews to games.

rpgisforme
rpgisforme

Being a Canadian I never had the opportunity to go to E3, and now I never will. I think this will be the end of E3. There was an idea to tone it down, okay I can understand that but they haven't toned it down so much as they have erased it. What did they say 36 companies? No retailers, no gamers, who the heck are they setting up the booths for?

Da1ShrpSh0trGrl
Da1ShrpSh0trGrl

If it has become soo big that exhibitors can't get their idea across then all they need to do is hold smaller conferences all over the US for gamers and local media to go. Regardless, we gamers are the ones ultimately buying the game and paying for all this. We make their business. I mean... I love E3 but not everyone can get in. And California hold most of the gaming events. What about the East Coast? We play games too.

cartoonrick
cartoonrick

I am looking forward to seeing what this is going to look like once it is all set up. With the more than 400 exhibitors dropped down to only 36 I can't imagine how it will look, especially with the limited amount of space. I can almost see it looking like a bad home and garden show in a small convention center! Will it have color and sound or will it be a quiet hush hush exhibit?

319ni
319ni

why do ppl think bigger is automatically better, downsizing may be a very good thing

mrx231
mrx231

There is little diffrence between an empty barker hanger and an empty lacc they are basicaly the same, cement floors and bare walls its the decorators that make it look cool, also while I desperatly miss e3 (Ive been to all of them since 2000 and they were a blast) the lacc is a money pit. I work security for a contract security company at lacc we were billing ESA $30 dollars an hour per guard during show days, we had about 200 a day, also keep this in mind ESA would than bill the individual exhibitors a diffrent (much much higher) rate. From what I was told by a buddy of mine who works security directly for sony ESA was charging them $65 an hour per guard. This is just one example and were not even union the freeman people (the decorators for the halls) who are union were making money hand over fist multiply that by caterers, janators, electritions , booth babes etc... and having even a small booth at e3 was an expensive endevor. So while i miss the old e3 i can understand the atempt to tone it down.

La_Rhonda
La_Rhonda

I like that idea Incubus420. I think ESA should give your idea a try if this years E3 is a bust. The way it's setup right now is not so good for those that are at the bottom of the gaming chain. We all know that the press is going to head to all the big name companies and then if they feel like it then they'll go to the other booths... rooms... whatever.

worldind913
worldind913

the people who hate the changes are just average people that don't like changes in anything, which i despise(not to be defending them, i am in favor of the changes myself) it's time the game industry shows it has grown up from just being a thing for little kids, or adolescent boys obsessed with bikini-clad women

DarkMarc1118
DarkMarc1118

why is it being held in a hangar? i mean, its like a bare, ugly environment... i mean, really, if they want to make it more secluded and businessy, they should have rented like two floors of an office building, at least it doesnt look horribel inside...