The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced in July 2006 that the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) had grown too big. What began as a smallish trade show in 1995 soon morphed into a bona fide media circus, and the real purpose of the show was lost. The 70,000 gamers crowding the Los Angeles Convention Center drowned out any substantial deal making on the show floor. In order to stand out in the din, even major studios had to shell out exorbitant amounts of cash to erect garish displays to ensure the adulation of media and fans. After 11 years, under pressure from studio heads, the general displeasure forced the ESA to pull the plug.
E3's collapse has left a hole in the gaming world. No longer is there an annual one-stop shop for every game developer's promotion and networking needs. Even though the model was broken, the institution of E3 was still useful. Conventions are a way to physically connect the public to games that are currently in development. Such a connection can't be provided through just reading a magazine or a blog. Under the hood, they also serve as a place for game designers to meet and socialize with each other. The event also enabled business partners from different parts of the world to meet face-to-face and discuss business plans, distribution deals and technology trends. Now, a host of other conventions must serve in its stead.
There are a plethora of options for the discerning gaming community. First off, the ESA fought through its doomsday announcement by breaking up E3 into two separate events. The E3 Media and Business Summit is a strict, invitation-only event for industry folk. E for All, the consumer-facing event, is Joe Gamer playing the games of tomorrow today.
The first E3 Media and Business Summit was held in Santa Monica, California on July 11-13, 2007. Many sources referred to the event as E3 2007, the successor to the cancelled event, but that led to inevitable comparisons. Instead of 60-70,000 GameStop employees and adolescent fanboys, the Summit drew 5,000 dedicated game developers, PR staffers and media members. Not many attendees complained that they only had a five-minute wait to play Rock Band rather than the five-hour one they could've expected at previous E3s. Also gone were excessive displays and ear-piercing demonstrations on the show floor. The ESA enforced rigid rules regarding signage, video screen size and booth layout at the show floor at Barker Hangar. Each game was judged on its own merit, not the thousands of dollars thrown at its presentation.
Not that the summit was incredibly efficient. The event was spread over a fairly wide area in Los Angeles, from the hotels near the Santa Monica Pier, which held developer specific events, to the official third-party press conferences at the Fairmont Miramar, to the relatively remote converted airplane hangar, which held the general show floor. The personnel-shuffling was especially annoying at the Miramar Starlight Room, where subsequent press events required a room reset. The press were ordered to pack up all their bags and video equipment, leave the room, then wait to reenter the same space and set up all over again.