CrunchArcade: E3 2007 Conclusions

Well, a week has passed and we’ve had time to consider this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Some two-dozen companies showed off hundreds of games, new hardware was introduced and most attendees probably spent way too much time on shuttle buses or stuck in traffic. So looking back, what worked, what didn’t work and what the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) should do to create a better show for next year.

e3logo.jpgAfter growing in size practically every year since E3 returned to Los Angeles in 1999, the show underwent its most radical change yet. Instead of the huge Los Angeles Convention Center, this year’s E3 was spread out over several hotels and other venues in Santa Monica. This was supposed to make for a more intimate show, and in truth smaller venues did make it easier to see the games, but none of the hotels were large enough to accommodate everything. Hence it was still crowded, with lines for everything and a feeling that was far from intimate.

It also meant traveling to many different venues, including the Santa Monica Airport. As a result hours could be wasted on travel time each day! But with no major hardware platforms even hinted at this year, E3 2007 was at least truly all about the games.

The high points of E3 2007:
*The Press Conferences were better organized thanks to the smaller venues, and more reasonable sized audiences. Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony kept to the key points and none of the companies showed the level of arrogance that has made these things unbearable.

*The meeting rooms were actually reasonably sized, and seeing a days worth of games didn’t mean a pounding headache that would last for a week. Volume control was the key this year, and it made for a comfortable experience.

*The smaller sized show was great for the mid-sized publishers. In the past Electronic Arts and Activision, along with Sony, Nintendo, SEGA and Microsoft dominated the show floor. Publishers such as THQ, Midway, Ubisoft and Konami really benefited from not be over-powered by the dominance of the industry’s biggest players.

The low points of E3 2007:
*The smaller sized show really left the little guys out in the cold. While the playing field was leveled for the major publishers, many smaller publishers had no presence. Likewise the Kentia Hall crowd was also left without a trade show to bring out their ware. This might sound like a minor point, and many attendees hardly ever took the time to visit the “basement” level Kentia Hall, but for companies like Saitek and CDV this lower level was their home. These companies would be even more lost in the crowd at the Consumer Electronics Show or New York North American Toy Fair. So what’s left for them? The E For Everyone show?

*The spread out location in Santa Monica was a welcome change from downtown Los Angeles. Getting to take in the Pacific breeze was fantastic. But all those positive feelings were gone after sitting on a bus for 40 minutes to go three miles! Clearly the E3 organizers were thinking about making the show happen at two close-by hotels, but the show grew and as a result it was far too spread out. Many attendees have complained that it was nearly impossible to make scheduled meetings, and completely impossible to see everything.

*Barker Hanger had some good stuff. It was small, but it was manageable. Despite opinions that it could “be done in five minutes” was totally off base. In fact the biggest low point about Barker Hanger is that it was so far off the beaten path that many attendees never made it. And many of the games were ONLY shown at the hanger. It was a lose, lose for everyone. And the fact that there was no cab pick-up point only made it worse.

*Whoever had the brilliant idea of putting the press room next to the press conference room deserves a medal for stupidest move yet! The press conferences were so loud during game play demos that you couldn’t work in the press room, and when it was actually quiet in the press room – such as when someone was trying to only talk on stage – that the press room overpowered the press conference.

E3 2008
If there is going to be an Electronic Entertainment Expo next year, and from the word on the street that is a big IF, the show needs to get reorganized again.

*First, the show organizers need to find a venue that works. Either take the show back to Atlanta or bring it to Las Vegas. Even trying to bring it back to a single hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center would work. But the point is that it needs to be under a single roof, press conferences and all. It should still be limited to the trade. Sorry fanboys. I don’t hate you, but really once you’ve done this thing a few times you’ll see that it isn’t a lot of fun away. So let the press, the buyers and the industry insiders have their show. We promise to report everything for you!

*Second, a week after the 4th of July isn’t going to work. What’s wrong with May? OK, this was a few weeks closer to the holidays and supposedly gave developers that “extra time to hone the games,” but was the show just moved to July because the hotels were booked up? People go on vacation in the summer, and they don’t like flying back from London and then to Santa Monica. At least I don’t! And if you really need extra time, consider October!

*Finally, the video game industry needs a trade show. Video games never fit in with CES, and that show is already too long. Adding press conferences for Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft would be a nightmare. Likewise, Toy Fair isn’t going to welcome those companies so willingly. The toy industry runs their shop lean, and the show floor at the Javits Convention Center in New York doesn’t have massive booths. While it seems like a good fit, Toy Fair and games wouldn’t work. E3 actually worked, until it became so big. A lean show is the way to go, but going back to my first point on this subject, keep it small. Let’s just try and get it right!