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The Electronic Entertainment Expo has a long and strange history; the event achieved an attendance of 70,000 people in 2005 before dropping down to about 5,000 for the two invite-only years of 2007 and 2008. This year, attendance was estimated to be about 46,000, which is a far cry from 2007-2008 levels, yet just over half of the size of the 2005 show.

So the question is: What is the current state of E3, both for the attendee and the non-attendee? After attending this year, I can say one thing for certain. E3 still has a lot of room to improve if it’s going to remain the one event that gamers anticipate all year.

Pre-E3 reveals

For those of you who were at home that thought this year’s E3 was a little light on reveals, you’re not alone. Aside from Nintendo’s press conference, there were relatively few truly surprising game or hardware reveals. Sure, Sorcery and Twisted Metal were pretty exciting, and watching Child of Eden at the Ubisoft press conference made a lot of people finally get on board with Kinect. But the rapid-fire reveals of previous years seemed to be nothing but a memory.

This can be blamed on the many reveals that happened prior to E3. While things like the existence of the 3DS couldn’t be helped, and its reveal was actually still made to be quite the production, many companies simply held their official reveals many weeks prior, leaving little to talk about at their own press conferences, and giving less for gamers at home to get excited about.

That’s really the problem of watching at home. Attendees get the benefit of touching the 3DS for the first time, playing Vanquish even though we have no idea what it is, or simply wandering the show floor to take in the sheer number of games there. Those at home in large part can’t feel the excitement of these things, and without reveals, much of the potential excitement of following along at home is gone.

E3 really needs to go back to being an event all about reveals if it is to capture the heart of the average gamer, which should always remain a priority.

Do you want me to see your game?

Prior to the event, one of the games I was most excited to see was Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Ninja Theory’s previous game, Heavenly Sword, appealed to me much more than I expected it to, and everything I had heard about Enslaved seemed like a step forward. So as I approached the Enslaved stations on the show floor, I was hoping to be wowed.

Luckily, I was. However, it was to no credit of the people showing the game off, assuming they existed at all. My time with the game involved me waiting for one other person to finish, then playing through the demo, and walking away. Not a single developer, PR person, or company representative approached me or was seemingly even present in the area. It truly felt like a game abandoned on the show floor, where others had enthusiastic demonstrators itching to ensure that I had all the information I needed.

It’s hard for me to fathom how something like this can happen. Sure, E3 is an expensive and chaotic event, but to see a high-quality game abandoned like this made me really upset. And it wasn’t the only instance of this. While I don’t need some PR person screaming in my face while I play, spouting off hyperbole about a game that isn’t even good, the least that companies can do is show some excitement, or at least feign it.

Business and pleasure, or “It’s not a damn riot.”

The 3DS announcement was big, obviously, and getting our hands on it became a quick priority, as I’m sure was the case with many press outlets out there. So a few of my fellow writers and I set out on Wednesday morning to get in line early, hoping to ensure a spot at the front of the 3DS line, which had been wrapping its way around the show floor on Tuesday. As we entered the convention center, we figured we had found success; few people were in line in front of us.

However, what we found when we got to the 3DS line was quite a shock: at least three hundred people were already waiting in line. How was that possible when the doors had opened less than a minute ago? Then I noticed it. Everyone in line was wearing an exhibitor badge, and exhibitors are allowed onto the show floor early in order to prepare their booths.

While this problem wasn’t insurmountable (I simply went back later), it did speak to a deeper problem. There is a lack of professionalism that can pervade the show floor. Members of the media sprinting in when the doors open. Writers demanding swag at a company’s booth and storming away when they find none.

While this isn’t necessarily the sort of thing that audiences following along at home will notice, it most certainly affects the quality of coverage, as its hard to get your job done when other supposed writers don’t seem to have any interest in doing theirs, but rather would prefer to be loud, obnoxious, and constantly in the way. E3 should never lose its sense of fun, but it’s not a party either.

So, if you ask me, E3 still needs to improve on all sides, from the organization to the professionalism of its attendees and exhibitors. How about from where you’re sitting? How would you like E3 to improve next year?

  1. Great write-up Andrew. You have a lot of points here that I completely agree with.

    I absolutely hate that fact the last two years have had all the major reveals happen the week leading up to E3. The show itself seems to only be about showing off the games, not surprising everyone with new ones. I still remember when everything was kept under lock and key until the press conferences. Those were much more exciting times.

    I also didn’t like how the exhibitors themselves got early access to the show floor, and how unprofessional some people were being. It’s hard to get our job done as the media when things like this occur.

    All that being said, I will go back to E3 if I get a chance in a heart beat. There is just no experience like it on the entire planet!

  2. Ubisoft revealed a brand new phenomenon called “laser tag” for the first time – your argument is disproved!

    On a more sober note, I was also disappointed at the lack of professionalism on the floor. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve begun calling the Portal 2 shirt I scored “my precious”, but I got that by covering the game. It was insane how many writers seemed to be more interested in swag hunting than in playing and writing up games; I’m not talking about the end of the show, this behavior was present on Day 1.

    I suppose that’s what puts the enthusiast into enthusiast press, but I think it’s the readers that suffer from that kind of behavior.

  3. As one of the few members of this site that doesn’t seem to do much in the way of journalism, I can’t speak from experience here. I will say that if the developers/publishers intend to reach consumers, rather than just visitors, they should focus a lot more on getting the press playing and talking about the games.

    How E3 would manage this is something I don’t really know. I do think a good first step would be getting the exhibitors, who I’m assuming are also involved in the funding, to reduce the amount of competition and increase the amount of cooperation at the show. Things like agreeing on merchandise giveaways ahead of time (which are going to be ethically problematic anyway) might help with that.

  4. Completely agree Andrew. The whole exhibitor thing was BS. In the perfect world, E3 would require a certain amount of coverage from the sites they accept. There are plenty of sites on the showroom floor I’ve never heard of. When I followed up with those sites to see their coverage to see how we could improve ourselves, I saw next to nothing. Some people treat the event as playtime unfortunately.

  5. avatar Ferahtsu

    Looks like some folks just need to grow up and do their job instead of acting like loose children at a Toys R Us.

  6. Excellent article. I completely agree. I went to 04, 05 and 06 and it doesn’t look like much has changed sadly enough.

  7. It was really easy for me to be apathetic about anything Sony oriented this year since they announced everything ahead of time. Nintendo really pleased my inner fanboy though.

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