With E3 shuffled quietly into that good night, it's time for the Monday Morning Quarterbacking to begin. We of the cheap seats and peanut gallery, who sat comfortably on the sidelines while the troops laid winding paths through Santa Monica, offer our edicts with preconceived notions of both what E3 should look like and who E3 should serve, while always comparing it to fuzzy-colored memories offered by the ghosts of E3s past. For example, my very last memory of the '06 show is walking out the front doors of the LA Convention Center, tired and over stimulated under a banner that encouraged me to come back for E3 Next Year, on May 16, 2007. At the time, I had as much intention of attending as the ESA had of running its normal show.
That E3 has fundamentally changed hasn't quite sunk in yet. It's part of the reason I didn't go this year, because I hadn't accepted the certainty of change. It's difficult not to reflect on previous shows where one would quickly lose track of all the new games. Suddenly we have been thrust from the world where LucasArts alone might announce six games at E3 to a scenario where Wii Fit and Scene It! are worth mentioning at major press conferences.
It's just hard not to be discouraged, to feel like something's been lost. But in doing so, perhaps we're missing the point: E3 has changed, and not necessarily for the worse. Have we really stopped and looked at what E3 has become instead of what it isn't anymore?
There's this notion floating through forum discussions across the web that getting a wealth of new information on games that might actually be released this year is somehow worse than getting sketchy promises on games two and three years away. It's not put so bluntly, but the underlying tone is not one of enthusiasm, but a deep regret that there weren't bigger new game announcements.
The question I wish to pose is, so what? Why do I feel like I'm in the minority in thinking E3 is better now? The press has an opportunity for the press to follow up on the games that have until now been only blips on a murky radar. Why don't we seem as interested in going in-depth with the games we will actually be playing in the next six months?
I'm not saying it was a perfect conference, or even an entirely satisfying one to watch from the comfortable and familiar confines of my office, but what I come away with when I'm not holding the new show up to the old one is a deeper understanding of the landscape of the rest of 2007. That's a rather positive novelty for an industry driven by hype and comfortable with multi-year delays.
From my seat here in familiar quarters, having experienced E3 only through the lens of those who actually braved airline security, uncomfortable hotel beds and endless bussing, the answer to the fundamental questions that the entire industry should be asking itself is: Yes, E3 is still relevant and useful, though not exactly in the way it was before. As a medium for establishing a marketing base for the holiday season, it can play a strong role. As a trade event it has muted its roar slightly, but in doing so perhaps meaningfully replaced the shock and awe tactics of the past with short-term substance.
There are certainly kinks to be worked out, but I hope the ESA and the industry as a whole takes away the positives and commits itself to keeping this new E3 alive.