E3 Proves the Truth Behind Reincarnation

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by Kyle Ackerman

The old Electronic Entertainment Expo is dead. A new E3 has been resurrected in its place, built from the ashes of the old Expo, but it's not really the same beast. When the Entertainment Software Association and the heavy hitters of the industry collaborated to kill the E3 of old, they simply didn't foresee where things were going. But, to be honest, neither did I.

There was some logic in killing the old E3. The biggest of the big publishers wasted millions of dollars trying to get their message to select journalists, creating a spectacle that was loved by the thousands who managed to cajole their way into the event. By getting rid of E3, companies could better control the message journalists received through private events and spend a lot less money doing it.

What they didn't foresee is that those journalists just aren't important any more. It's the same problem that is killing newspapers and magazines. People don't want someone to filter a company's message and identify the interesting, astonishing or contradictory elements. People want direct access to information – game trailers and quick video blog blather. If you've read this far, you probably aren't one of the many netizens wishing this was a 30-second video blog summary by a pretty face, but you're also probably in the minority.

Game companies don't have to worry about controlling the message that gets to journalists anymore. They have to ensure they can create a spectacle that web sites with video, cable networks, and late night talk shows can use to fill the many otherwise empty hours of broadcast time. The new E3 isn't about creating a buzz among the press, it's about promoting games that will be in stores momentarily, releasing new video and providing dynamic backdrops for video that will be posted immediately.

There were a few exciting things at this year's E3. Any time this many industry moguls are gathered in one place, there will be interesting revelations behind certain closed doors. But most of what was being shown at E3 existed to drive sales right now, not build excitement for the future.

A few short years ago, banners hanging in the Los Angeles Convention Center hallways promoted games as much as two years away to build excitement. This year, there were banners were for games already released. On the show floor, too, were games already in stores. Every demo console on the show floor used to have a thermometer-like label that showed how complete the code was. A game might be 30% complete, or 50% complete. Not only were no such indicators present, most games on the show floor were due for imminent release. Finding a game due after the holiday season, let alone a game in the truly early stages, was challenging.

There will continue to be an E3. It won't be the kind of E3 that has you reading exciting previews – that will happen elsewhere. It will be the kind of E3 that you download from the PlayStation Network, watch streaming over Xbox Live, or tune into on cable TV, and it will show you what to buy today, not what you will drool over next year. This is an E3 that covers now, not an E3 for the future.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 4, 2009 5:44 PM.

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