Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: The Extra E in E3

Russ Pitts | 14 Jul 2008 21:00
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As you read this, I'll be stepping off the plane in Los Angeles, picking up my rental car and loading up a metric crap ton of equipment to cover this year's E3 Business and Media Summit and hoping there will actually be something to cover.

In years past, E3 was the Mecca of gaming. Writers, fans and developers came from the world over to attend the convention. Many folks came just to be in the same town as everybody else while it was happening, hoping to rub elbows with someone at a party who'd offer them a job or just shake their hand. It's not like that anymore, and really, I'm tired of talking about how much it's changed, so I can only imagine how tired you are of reading it. So let's move on.

Last year, the new E3, E3 Business and Media Summit, premiered in sunny Santa Monica in a dozen or so hotels arrayed like satellites around the famous Santa Monica Pier. It was a fun affair. Lots of walking. Actually, it was partly the experience of huffing it from end to end of that fine city, from hotel to hotel (there was no central convention center) to meet with game companies that inspired me to take up running. After I got back from that show I was exhausted, and it wasn't like I'd done any strenuous work or anything. I just walked. A lot. It was embarrassing.

This year I'm fit and ready to go ... and we're back in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Alright. It should be interesting to return to the scene of the crime. Last year, the ESA, the trade group behind the show, had some hefty fines levied against it for bailing on its extended contract with the Los Angeles Convention Center, then sank millions into developing a trade show in Santa Monica. Some say this wasn't the smartest move.

Afterward, as a result of that decision and various other economic realities, the ESA began announcing changes to its membership fee structure, prompting Activision and other companies to leave the group. Activision just announced this week it'll be fending for itself in the years ahead, and others have suggested the fledgling Electronic Consumer Association will be filling the gap.

Yet in spite of all the changes and conspiracy theories, E3 is moving forward and enough major players are still involved that it should be at least an interesting show. Yes, it will be smaller, yes, a lot of companies have pulled out, and yes, there will be fewer naked chicks and live musical acts, but with the dust finally settling over the console war of the past few years, and the three major consoles having seemingly resigned themselves to their respective places, the focus this year, finally, will be on the games. And that's always good.

While the turmoil and supposition about the future of E3 and the eventual winner of a console war may be entertaining to those of us who rely on high drama and intrigue to keep our attention rooted on our jobs, we know that those of you who follow this crap really just want to hear about the games. And underneath our petty conceit to actually give a damn about who's going to revolutionize plastic instrument gaming more, that's all we really care about, too.

Will the PS3 make a big comeback? Perhaps. Will Panasonic start making Xbox 360 devices? Who knows? Will Rock Band 2 make any sense considering Harmonix split company with Guitar Hero publishers Red Octane and Activision specifically to avoid the wash and rinse sequel release cycle? Inquiring minds want to know, and if we find out this year in LA, we'll pass that info along. But really, the games, how they play and when you can get your hands on them is what you're really interested in, and we know it. Judging from the layout and line-up of this year's E3, it looks like the industry finally got that message, too.

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