CrunchArcade: How To Fix E3

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July is almost a wrap, and it’s been two weeks since E3, and this will be the last post about the show. But we’ve had some time to think about what can be done to improve (dare we say save) the annual video game event. Let’s face it; the electronic entertainment industry needs a trade show. We in the press need to see the games, retail buyers need to see the games and small developers need to find a publisher. Can and should E3 be saved? Yes on both counts. We have a few ideas!

CES and Toy Fair Aren’t Options
tradeshows.jpgSome have suggested rolling E3 into another trade show. This isn’t going to work, and it’s not really an option. For one the Consumer Electronics Show is already too big. With CES Unveiled, the press conference day and various evening events CES already lasts forever. Add multiple days on the show floor as well as the press events, and the video game industry would make this behemoth show even bigger. There isn’t even room to host all the companies. So that’s a no go on E3 at CES.

Toy Fair has similar problems. New York City doesn’t even have enough hotel rooms or enough convention floor space for the video game companies. And no one wants to commute in from New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester County! Besides the toy industry learned long ago that lean is the way to present at a trade show. These companies have tables, not massive booths! Even a scaled back version of E3 would be lost with the toy industry’s premier event.

Location, location, location
The best option is probably to stick with what we already know. The ESA survey that went out to the press last week asked which option we preferred the best: Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Diego, Laguna Beach or San Francisco. What’s missing? Well, Las Vegas? The one city that has mega hotels that can swallow a convention isn’t being considered. Santa Monica and Laguna Beach are terribly expensive, while San Francisco would no doubt be welcomed by many of the companies.

Rumors have already begun to circulate that Los Angeles is all but out of the running. GameDaily reported earlier this week that the ESA is already considering other options. But while some publishers have pushed for Vegas, this wasn’t included in the list of possibilities.

So if it isn’t Las Vegas, why not Los Angeles? E3 was born in the City of Angels in 1995, and other than two years in Atlanta (which weren’t too bad I might add), the show has called LA home ever since until this year. So why not go back to down town. No one says you have to sell out the Los Angeles Convention Center, or fill it to the rafters with exhibitors. In fact a scaled back show could fit nicely under one roof. There would be room to work, to meet, to have regular panels… it would be like a trade show! Imagine that.

However, there is another option. Go back to the old format, but with some changes.

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Old location, New rules
The reason the show didn’t work in its old format was that it was just too large. The ESA is asking whether we want a large event at a convention facility or a small hotel-based show. What’s wrong with a smaller show at the Convention Center? It would take a couple of small points to make it work.

  • Press conferences on Wednesday – the problem the old E3 had was that it became a weeklong event. Having Sony and Microsoft try to outdo one another with press conferences that began earlier each year meant that we’d show up on Sunday and hit the ground running on Monday. The ESA should enforce a press conference day on Wednesday, or at the very least rotate the Tuesday evening press conference. But please make it a 6pm conference. For those of us flying in from the East Coast 8:30pm PT is a little late, especially if we want to file our report that night. A full press conference day works for CES, it could work for E3.
  • Thursday/Friday open to ESA Guests – keep the guest list format for Thursday and Friday. That is no fans, no public guests, no underage minors who are allowed to sneak in. The event should be working members of the media, retail buyers, publishers and developers.
  • Public days over the weekend – how much would it add to the show if you opened it to the public, and charged admission for the weekend? The Japanese video game trade shows already do this, and it builds interest among the fans.
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  • Dress code – OK, I’ll admit it. Putting on a suit is akin to instant bad mood for me. But for shows like CES, Toy Fair, and E3 business causal is about as causal as I should get. This is an industry event. If Reggie from Nintendo isn’t wearing shorts on stage during the Nintendo press conference than the press shouldn’t show up in flip flops, a dirty t-shirt and shorts. This isn’t a beach party. Yes, it’s cool that some of us have a job where we can dress like slobs, but at the show, business causal should be required. And part of my argument for this is that many in the press complain, “this show is full of fan boys,” but many of the fan boys are better dressed. Show some respect. The PR teams, the marketing teams and even the catering staff are dressed nicer than many of the working press.
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  • Best of Show Awards – it seems that everyone likes to post their best of show. CrunchArcade didn’t… because I was the only one who made it to the show, and I didn’t see everything. Thus trying to say, “best of show,” only rewards those companies that had a big presentation. But this had been a problem with E3 for years. The Game Critics and other awards strive to be independent of the ESA, but here is a case where the ESA should run an official awards. Every member of the press, especially given the smaller nature of the show, should get to vote for the best games. Otherwise E3 Judges remains an elitist and otherwise irrelevant body, which wouldn’t be a problem except that companies such as Electronic Arts have begun to take it way too seriously in recent years.
  • Best of Show For What Year – the other problem with E3 Judges in years past is that many times the “Best of E3” is given to a game multiple years in a row, or a game that is little more than vaporware. The Awards should be given to games that are scheduled to ship for that year, not titles such as Spore (winner in 2005), which was only shown to a select few behind closed doors – a game that I’ll add still has no street date in sight. A solution would be best game for long-lead title or something. This would also be interesting whether these games retained the “Best” when their year finally arrives.

    Fortunately this year the Game Critics Awards have revised their rules, and now focus on games that are actually playable. Still the 36 judges couldn’t have seen everything. So again, maybe getting everyone to get a vote would be a better option.

  • Those are just a few of the things that could fix E3. As we’ve previously posted the video game industry needs a trade show. It is good for the companies; it is good for the industry as a whole. And despite that funeral held for E3 by Mike Wilson and the founders of GameCock, this show isn’t quite dead and buried yet.

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