A couple of years ago the Entertainment Software Association-the body that organizes E3 every year-took the drastic step of significantly scaling back the show and its spectacle in order to create an environment more conducive to conducting business. No more giant booths, no more enormous crowds-just industry executives and journalists with appointment packed schedules.
However, as the doors close on the second E3 held since the ESA's decision to downsize, it seems there are plenty of people who aren't satisfied with the show's new design.
Gamesindustry.biz filed a report Thursday in which Ubisoft Executive Director Alain Corre is quoted as being unhappy with the show's current format. "There are no retailers at all, from anywhere on the planet-not even the US retailers are there, and there are very few media outlets from outside of the US," said Corre in the article. "Even the mainstream media from the US aren't there."
What's more, Corre believes that the show lacks the sort of buzz it once carried among the gaming public since being bumped back from its traditional mid-May slot to two months later in the year. He says the move has resulted in most publishers announcing their major projects and holiday releases before E3 rather than during it.
While Ubisoft is still trying to use the show to unveil important titles, such as the mysterious new I Am Alive, which was shown to the press for the first time Tuesday night, other companies, like Nintendo, appear to have already lost faith in the show's influence. In an E3 post mortem on IGN's Nintendo channel, the reputable gaming site states that, "Nintendo has made it pretty clear that it no longer lives and dies by the once-unequaled venue." The article further argues that while the Japanese company let slip that it has some major games in the works, it apparently didn't deem E3 an important enough platform from which to announce them. IGN suggests that Nintendo could be waiting for larger events, such as The Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany or the Tokyo Game Show, to make its most important announcements.
Meanwhile, some companies have completely abandoned E3. Activision, for example, left the ESA earlier this year and declared in May that it would not present at E3 at all. Instead, the Guitar Hero publisher chose to hold press conferences and events that took place concurrently with but apart from the ESA managed show.
These actions and complaints lead to the inevitable conclusion that E3, in its current format, is failing. Not just in its goal of delivering a useful event to the industry and video game journalists, but also in generating excitement for gamers at large.
In his final video report from the show floor, Wired.com's Chris Kohler says, "E3 this year is just about companies showing off what they'll have for the holiday season-in many respects games that have already been announced."
Indeed, E3 2008 was marked by its distinct lack of truly revelatory information from the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Rather than unveil exciting new projects, the Big Three seemed content to show video for titles gamers have long been aware of, such as Gears of War 2 and Resistance 2 (Nintendo's Wii Music excepted, though its free spirited, non-competitive design makes it less game and more interactive art.)
In other words, there was nothing onto which the gaming community could zealously latch, or unanimously cheer about. And without that-the sort of high-pitched fanaticism that the industry relies on to build buzz about its games-E3 starts to lose relevance.
What lies in store for the once prestigious trade show? To answer that, I'll direct you to a Games Radar story that discusses the giant banner that hangs above the Los Angeles Convention Centre's exit doors. In the past, it has always provided the dates of the next year's show. This year? "Nothing," says Games Radar. "No promises, people. For all we know this is the end."