Conventioneering

Conventioneering
E3 is Dead, Long Live the Rest

Greg Tito | 27 Nov 2007 13:47
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PAX 2007, held this August at the Washington Convention and Trade Center, was the largest concentration of gamers ever recorded in the Pacific Northwest. The event stroked every nerd fetish imaginable. Huge exhibits from top developers like Ubisoft, NCsoft and Wizards of the Coast had attendants comparing the show floor to the old E3's. This prompted Krahulik to respond in a pre-event blog post: "PAX is not the new E3. E3 failed. If someone else wants to be the new E3 they are welcome to it. They can even set up shop in the carcass of the giant and claim his power, but E3 is dead and it died for a reason." The implication was clear. Holkins and Krahulik didn't want to build on the ashes of a defunct institution.

Gamer advocate and everyone's favorite Ensign, Wil Wheaton, gave a stirring keynote speech which electrified the crowd with gamer pride. The naysayers of parents, principals and senators can't purport that gaming culture is full of lazy, anti-social teenagers with a frenetic event like PAX going on. PA colleague, Kiko, took hundreds of photos over the course of PAX weekend. Examining them, one is struck by the magnitude of this hobby and the strength of the collective gamer. At PAX, games are good.

Mike Krahulik told a little story after PAX about underground E for All marketers trying to infiltrate the convention center with TVs in their shirts. If marketing your event at a "rival" convention doesn't imply a sort of desperation, I'm not sure what does. The ESA must have been worried that their catch-all gaming public event, E for All, wouldn't be as heavily attended as PAX. And they were right.

E for All was held on October 18-21 at the LA Convention Center, the previous home of E3, and drew about 18,000 attendees. Despite heavy-handed press from the organizers claiming overwhelming success, many sources called E for All what it was, a poor imitation of PAX. Says Wired's Chris Kohler, "Penny Arcade Expo was everything E For All dreams of being: a well-attended show packed wall-to-wall with crazy game fans." Kohler goes on to say that potential is still there, that E for All is still brand new and may grow into a decent event. But if the ESA plans to more directly compete with PAX, as they have by booking the same weekend in 2008, E for All may end up being for nobody of consequence.

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The full implication of E3's collapse won't be realized for several years. The mega show had only been around for 11 years, games existed before it did and continue to exist after its demise. What will take E3's place? Specific events targeted at specific demographics seem the most likely as more developers mimic Blizzcon. A big general gaming convention can still be a reality, but it needs a certain amount of street cred to draw the kind of numbers E3 did in its heyday.

As for the business community, the E3 Media and Business Summit is a passable replacement and will only get better over time. Other events, like the Game Developers Conference as well as the Tokyo Game Show and the Leipzig Games Conference, fulfill the respective roles of educational seminars on game design and international market research. With so many disparate conventions accomplishing so many different goals, it's a wonder that one huge event encompassing every subject regarding videogames was ever possible. E3 is dead, long live the rest.

Greg Tito is a playwright and standup comic residing in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently splitting time between World of Warcraft, a new D&D 3rd edition campaign and finishing one of his many uncompleted writing projects. He also blogs semi-regularly at http://onlyzuul.blogspot.com/.

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