The E3 Media & Business Summit - A Paper Tiger

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by Kyle Ackerman

E3 2007 was a success. But only for the publishers who didn't need it.

In its new format as the E3 Media & Business Summit, it wasn't a success for most publishers, who either showed the same material they had released in previous weeks or who were shut out of the new event. It wasn't a success for financial analysts or press, who mostly saw repeat performances of games and missed meeting with those esoteric companies and tiny publishers. Buyers gave the event a miss entirely. It wasn't even a success for the public, who enjoyed the spectacle of the old Electronic Entertainment Expo vicariously through the same press and company websites that bemoaned the old event. It may have been a success for a few publishers and developers who had meetings they easily could have held elsewhere.

But the new E3 was a big success for a few large publishers. Sure, those companies saved money compared to the old E3. But the big bonus was shutting small publishers out of the press loop and consolidating control over their own message. Those large publishers hold frequent private events or press visits for important announcements. In such venues, they can better manage the message that gets out to the public. The smaller publishers, however, once gained from an industry wide event where they could count on contact with most of the world's gaming press.

That's what made E3 2007 a success for large publishers. Much of the competition was silenced, leaving less clamor over competing holiday titles. There were few new announcements at the show, making the new E3 an empty void in which press and publishers rehashed familiar gaming ground.

There were a few events of note. Gamecock held a beautifully orchestrated event in which they showed new games and new content. The highlight of this E3 was Gamecock's brilliant dirge for former conference. A few companies had something minor or novel to show.

But most meetings revisited familiar territory, and "new" announcements were typically restricted to things like "this first-person shooter will include a multiplayer mode." These weren't announcements. Rather, they were stating the obvious (that in most cases had been proclaimed weeks earlier). Unlike previous E3 events, when some games were shown that were years away from completion, most games shown this year will be released by Thanksgiving. Everyone has seen them, knows them well and knows exactly what to expect.

The Barker Hangar show floor was emblematic of the show itself. It was almost devoid of new game content, and largely avoided by the attendees. Some companies didn't even bother turning on their demo stations.

This E3 was irrelevant. And the obvious losers were small developers and publishers. Small publishers no longer have this venue to broadcast their message. Small developers can't get their games noticed by the press and public, helping them land a publisher. Big developers don't need and don't use the event. So the biggest losers are the gaming public. The more that large publishers can shut out smaller companies, particularly in a business that is now a big-budget enterprise, the less chance the gaming public has of getting access to unusual, creative and off-the-wall games.

E3 was a success, in that it stifled competition, focusing attention even more narrowly on the biggest players in the industry. Yes, they make great games. But they don't make the only games. The old E3 may have been colossally wasteful, but the new E3 is pointless and hollow.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 13, 2007 2:39 PM.

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