EA Nerfs E3

The Entertainment Software Association announced yesterday that E3 is “evolving” into “a more intimate event focused on targeted, personalized meetings and activities”.

This is unbelievable. I was actually befuddled for a minute or two after reading the press release. And then it all started making sense…especially when news broke that EA has been whining about the increasing costs. This is like Donald Trump whining about how expensive cheesecake is, and then demanding that only apple pie be served at restaurants.

The entire press release, and my comments are as follows:

Washington, DC (July 31, 2006) – To better address the needs of today’s global computer and video game industry, the 2007 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3Expo) is evolving into a more intimate event focused on targeted, personalized meetings and activities, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced today.


Seriously, this is a de-evolution if anything. What the hell are targeted personalized meetings and activities? Private lap dances? Scientology aura cleansing?

“The world of interactive entertainment has changed since E3Expo was created 12 years ago. At that time we were focused on establishing the industry and securing orders for the holiday season,” said Douglas Lowenstein, President of the ESA, the trade association representing U.S. computer and video game publishers and the owner of E3Expo. “Over the years, it has become clear that we need a more intimate program, including higher quality, more personal dialogue with the worldwide media, developers, retailers and other key industry audiences.”

Why, yes it has changed. But only a little bit. Developers are still regularly begging publishers to screw them over, publishers are still funding dumb game ideas, and there are tons of other problems in the industry. Not much change there. By the way, in all of the years I have ever been to E3, there was never a sense that the focus was securing orders for the holiday season. Sure, that did occur, but you know, that can be done over the phone right? E3 was the media extravaganza which was the perfect vehicle to build hype over a game, help smaller developers get desperately needed exposure in the news, and of course it was a great event for serious networking.

But I’m failing to see where “it has become clear” that we need a more intimate program, and why that means that the best part (and biggest draw) of the expo needs to get nerfed…

The new E3Expo will take shape over the next several months. As currently envisioned, it will still take place in Los Angeles, described by ESA as a “great and supportive partner helping to build E3.” It will focus on press events and small meetings with media, retail, development, and other key sectors. While there will be opportunities for game demonstrations, E3Expo 2007 will not feature the large trade show environment of previous years.

Press events and small meetings with media and retail? Why do I get the feeling that the large publishers are feeling the threat of online distribution and other outlets and are using this as a way to regain some leverage? If a small developer can’t get some hype and exposure at a huge trade show like E3, what is left? It is nearly impossible to get a deal with a publisher (for funding or for distribution) if you don’t already have a major portion of your game developed and some serious industry interest/hype.

Even as E3 has been, it was always difficult to “get in the door” with some publishers, but now with this new “more intimate” approach, it is going to be impossible. You might as well just show up at the door of the corporate HQ and ask for a meeting.

And what is this crap about “there will be opportunities for game demonstrations”? What the hell does THAT mean? Does this mean that there generally will be NO game demonstrations, but there will be some exceptions or limited opportunities?

“E3Expo remains an important event for the industry and we want to keep that sense of excitement and interest, ensuring that the human and financial resources crucial to its success can be deployed productively to create an exciting new format to meet the needs of the industry. The new event ensures that there will be an effective and more efficient way for companies to get information to media, consumers, and others,” said Lowenstein.

Uhm. I’m sorry, but you just threw excitement and interest right out the door. Oh, here is an interesting line “ensuring that the human and financial resources…can be deployed productively”. I fail to see how scaling the ENTIRE expo down will achieve this. The only folks that will save any money are the giant mega-publishers who piss away tens of millions of dollars every year at E3. Why don’t they simply just NOT SPEND AS MUCH, and let the rest of us enjoy the expo?

What about this line? “The new event ensures that there will be an effective and more efficient way for companies to get information to media, consumers, and others”. Wow! How exciting! I bet I know what the most effective and efficient ways are! WEBSITES AND EMAIL. Effective, cheap, and quite efficient.

But wait! Why do people go to E3? To play the games, see what is new, network, develop new relationships, schmooze, look for jobs, etc. etc. The game industry NEEDS a mega event. Breaking the whole thing down into tiny little rooms for press only demonstrations is just…sad.

Additionally, the evolution of the video game industry into a vibrant and expanding global market has led to the creation of major events in different regions, such as the Games Convention in Leipzig, the Tokyo Game Show, and company-specific events held by Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and others around the world. As a result, Lowenstein said, “It is no longer necessary or efficient to have a single industry ‘mega-show’. By refocusing on a highly-targeted event, we think we can do a better job serving our members and the industry as a whole, and our members are energized about creating this new E3.”

Yes, it is quite nice that Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and others (well duh, these guys are the console guys) have company specific events. Yes, lovely. I don’t care. What about the hundreds of other developers and publishers out there? You know, if Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and EA just stopped going to E3, there would just be more elbow room. To be sure, I have looked forward to seeing what they are putting out each year, but I usually find the best games and most interesting new titles elsewhere.

And, yes, it is great that Leipzig and the Tokyo Game Show are doing well…the de-evolution of E3 will give these guys a boost. The US is slowly giving up its lead in the game industry. We aren’t innovating, we aren’t creating original content, we aren’t supporting smaller developers, and so on. Nerfing E3 is just another example…has the North American game industry just giving up? Or does it refuse to believe it is sick?

The line about members being energized about creating this new E3 is bullshit. Yes, I said it. I don’t believe that anyone in their right mind finds this energizing. If you want highly targeted events, they happen all year long, and in multiple regions. There MUST be one single mega-show to tie it all together.

Ok, so I haven’t said much about EA yet. It has been reported in several places that EA was one of the leading companies pushing for this castration of E3. The main reason? It was too expensive. Well, no shi* Sherlock. When you spend $20-30M on your booth, what were you thinking? But why ruin it for the rest of us? That’s what I want to know. First they got rid of the booth babes, and now this. Nobody buys games that are no fun. Remember that.

You know, this almost doesn’t surprise me. EA wastes hundreds of millions of dollars every year (it is a wonder that they are still heavyweights), they routinely cancel titles in development, they acquire developers and destroy them (*cough* origin?), and I have never ever met an EA employee that was truly happy with their job or how the company treats its people. Now EA is spreading the bad mojo and killing E3. Gee, thanks EA. I hope your stock tanks.

Finally, you know what really pisses me off? No one asked our opinion before this decision was made. I never heard of a vote, a poll, or a questionnaire. I want to know the names of the companies that “voted” for this. I can’t believe that this is in the best interest of the industry…E3 is either dead, or it will be in a few short years.

In any case, it needs a new name. Electronic ENTERTAINMENT EXPO just doesn’t fit anymore. Suggestions?


15 thoughts on “EA Nerfs E3”

  1. Some other notes:

    The ESA has said that there were about 60,000 attendees last year and they anticipate 10,000 next year (smaller, more intimate, blah blah). I think this really means: “We secretly know this is a dumb idea and nearly everyone is going to pull out of the show, but if we say we anticipated (and wanted) only 10,000 attendees it won’t look like a miserable failure”.

    As I have been reading around on other news and blog sites about this, I read a comment where someone pointed out that the “new” E3 will be open to everyone. Maybe I missed this line, but I didn’t see it. And if I did, I would say this is also a bunch of malarky. How are they going to go from 60,000 to 10,000 and proclaim about how much more intimate and targeted it will be, while opening it to the public? Ain’t happening.

    Speaking of which, one of my biggest beefs was how HARD it has been to get into E3 as a small developer or even industry consultant, while anyone that has a pay stub from being a cashier at Best Buy or some other retailer could easily get in. Not to mention the children with sticky fingers pushing in front of you in line to get their grubby little hands on a game demo…”no one under 18 admitted” my ass.

    I think what needs to happen, is some other company needs to step up and launch E4 or something like that. Screw the ESA. E3 has declined mostly because of the giant mega-publishers and bad show management. Yeah, I said it. I blame them.

    Give me an alternative. I will be there. And I suspect so will a lot of other companies. The ESA and some of the large publishers (and I’m looking at YOU EA) just screwed the bulk of the industry big time.


  2. Why couldn’t the big companies, instead of agreeing to pull out of E3 altogether, simply decide to mutually scale down their Cold War of one-upmanship to create the loudest, most ostentatious, most expensive displays with most scantily-clad booth babes? It became expensive because the publishers allowed themselves to become slaves to the E3 media spotlight. Frankly, it seemed unsustainable.

  3. I for one am bummed out. I always heard how E3 was noisy, crowded, blah blah blah, but I still wanted to go next year; in fact, my fiance and I were already looking into booking hotel reservations. Now it is over.. Oh well guess there is always Ceasar’s Palace. –

  4. It always was noisy and crowded. Hot and stuffy as well. Food and refreshments were overpriced and hard to get to (looong lines). There was never enough space, and unless an exhibitor had a private meeting room as part of their booth, there was lots of yelling in some areas trying to be heard (because Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, and ALL of the other “big boys” were trying to outdo each other on noise…puerile, no?).

    Even with that though, E3 simply cannot be beat for seeing what is going on and networking with people.

    Now with this new “evolutionary” approach (I scoff!) it seems that only the press people (who generally dont have a bloody clue) will get private showings…”and opportunities for game demos”. Bleh.

    You know, I’d take the word of a random blogger that managed to get into the show for reviews way over the “review” of a game from one of the big media outlets or the typical “gaming press”. We all know there is a lot of favoritism and back alley handshaking for good reviews, and (almost worse) the mass media usually takes publisher press releases as fact.

    Bleh. Even with all of the downsides (and everyone knows I love to complain about E3) I honestly love the show and it has always been extraordinarily productive for me to attend.

    The Game Developers Conference is much smaller and more intimate, and it costs a bloody fortune to get into. It is also not focused on demos and marketing.

    So, what does that leave us? Multiple conferences overseas, and dozens of “regional” shows. This is better for Developers HOW? If you have money, do the show circuit. If you DONT have money, make sure you go to the mega-show: E3.

    I feel like I have been PK’d and nerfed.

    I hope someone comes up with an alternative soon.


  5. In an article posted on Yahoo News [http://news.yahoo.com/s/bw/20060801/bs_bw/tc20060801521699] written by Carlos Bergfeld quotes Lowenstein (ESA President) as saying:

    “The conference had come to be attended by many people who had tenuous connections to the industry and the media. I think the main thing thats going to be different is, by making it invitation-only, people are going to be interacting with the people they want to see.”

    While I agree that there were a lot of “tenuous” connections, it is their own fault. There are several ways they could go about making sure only industry related people could get in. Did they bother? No.

    Invitation only?WTF? So let me see…it *sounds* like the only way to get in as a developer is to get an invitation from the ESA? What if they dont like your games or haven’t heard of your startup? Too bad for you?

    Honestly, the more I think about it, this whole thing feels like a powerplay by the mega-publishers trying to tighten their stranglehold on the market and boost the retail publishing model.

    Gah, I am so irritated over this whole issue. I wish more people would make a big deal out of this.



  6. Another quote from the interview

    “The new system will rely on invite lists created by developers, though Lowenstein said they haven’t figured out exactly how it would work.”

    If the developers are making their own list of who they are inviting doesn’t this sort of throw out any chance of impartiality? I mean they aren’t going to invite a publication/writer who has consistently badmouthed them/their game would they?

  7. Well how coincidental. EA posts $81M loss for this last quarter. Gee, I wonder if that had anything to do with their push to get E3 borked.

  8. It’s inevitable if they don’t change, someone else will take their place. PAX is already claiming that’s them. E3 is just too much of a draw and an opportunity for attention. If the ESA doesn’t want to provide the stage, someone else will.

  9. I think the best way to deal with this is to find another game show, like PAX mentioned above, and start pumping it. Get the gaming world pumped about the next show via that viral internet yelling and see what happens. Just let E3 die by the side of the road as the masses trample it to get to the next big thing. Has a nice irony to it no?

  10. Overall, this is going to increase costs for the publishers as they will now have to attend 3 or 4 additional tradeshows in order to receive the exposure that one E3 gave them. Yes, it was loud and flashy. Yes, it was crowded and hard to get meetings. But that was the joy of it all

  11. Rupert Murdock was recently quoted in an interview speaking to News Corp’s large interest in getting more involved in the gaming scene. He mentioned that IGN was a good ‘first step’.

    If you think about it, News Corp is in a perfect position to take over this hole quickly. They have the clout and the money to pull it off, and they do not develop or own a console so they have a certain impartiality.

    Interesting thought.

  12. IGN put on its own convention last year. I attended. It was lightly attended despite being open to the public, probably due to lack of advertising. I did take a survey about how to improve it, so it seems they were planning on making it an annual event. With News Corp behind it they could easily make it as big as E3 was in a few years. They had it at the Anaheim Convention Center which is much larger than Los Angeles. I don’t know if that’s the direction they will go, as fledgling “side projects” like this tend to be the first to go when new management comes in, but it would be interesting.

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