NCsoft, Foundation 9 bypass E3 '08

[UPDATE 2] Following Activision/Vivendi's departure from the ESA, more studios say they will not be attending this year's E3 Media & Business Summit; id status unclear.

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The Electronic Entertainment Expo has been in a serious state of flux in recent years. At the behest of many top publishers and hardware makers, the E3 Media & Business Summit organizer Entertainment Software Association said in July 2006 that it would be dramatically downsizing the annual trade show--reducing attendees from approximately 60,000 to a mere 5,000--and changing the venue from the spacious Los Angeles Convention Center to segmented locations in Santa Monica, California.

In December, the ESA said that the E3 Media & Business Summit would be returning to the LACC, but that this year's show would remain a scaled-down affair in line with the 2007 expo, which was invite-only. Though the ESA no longer plans to occupy the LACC in its entirety, the convention center will have at least one noticeable void on its show floor. Earlier today, Activision (and by proxy Vivendi) said it would not be attending this year's media event, and in fact would not be renewing its membership with the trade body at all.

With Activision and Vivendi pulling out of this year's show, it now appears as if at least some other studios are following the soon-to-be merged giants' lead. GameSpot has learned that NCsoft and Foundation 9--both of which participated in last year's show--will not be attending this year's event.

"No, we're not attending E3 this year," said a Foundation 9 representative. "We just didn't feel like we got enough out of the investment last year in order to justify the expense this year." Foundation 9 has 11 internal development studios, including Backbone Entertainment, Double Helix (nee Shiny and The Collective), Amaze Entertainment, Sumo Digital, and Digital Eclipse. Upcoming games from Foundation 9's various studios include Silent Hill: Homecoming, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, and Monster Lab.

[UPDATE] Following GameSpot's original report, a Foundation 9 representative clarified the developer's absence at the show. "Our decision not to exhibit at E3 this year, was in no way in response to Activision’s decision," said the rep. "We came to the decision on our own at the end of 2007. Some of our business development folks may actually go to the show as attendees, we're just not investing in the exhibit space. In addition, we just want to be clear that we have nothing against the show or the ESA in any way; exhibiting at E3 is just not something that fits with our marketing strategy this year."

A less surprising absence is NCsoft, which engaged in a heated confrontation with the ESA closing out E3 2006. After being fined $5,000 for a noise violation, NCsoft vice president of strategic development Fred Schmidt publicly called out the trade body, saying, "We're not sure we're on the same plane with this organization... We have been harassed for three days straight, and I'm not sure we're coming back here." Contrary to Schmidt's posturing, NCsoft did make an appearance at the ESA's 2007 trade show.

As for NCsoft skipping E3 2008, a representative of the publisher told GameSpot, "The timing wasn't right for our products, so it really doesn't make sense for us to go." NCsoft has a handful of games in its stable, including the high-profile Guild Wars 2, which is expected to go into beta during the second half of this year, and Aion: Tower of Eternity, expected to launch in Korea in 2008.

[UPDATE] Finally, this afternoon an executive at the PR agency which has represented id Software in the past informed GameSpot that the developer will indeed be attending this year's show, despite the absence of its longtime publisher, Activision. However, reps had not commented on online reports claiming the Doom and Rage developer would be skipping the event.

[UPDATE 2] However, soon after this story's publication, the same agency retracted its previous statement, promising more details to follow.

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