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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.

The Escapist will be on the scene to cover the show from Day One. In fact, we’re already there. Susan hit the ground running on Sunday, and if you haven’t already, be sure to read her reports from the show floor and elsewhere at The Escapist‘s E3 page. She’ll be bringing in news straight from the big talks, and interviews with developers.

Also, this year, for the first time, The Escapist will be on the show floor with a camera crew. Julianne and I will be conducting interviews and capturing the action from inside the convention center and bringing it back to you in video form. We’re very excited about the possibility of giving you an Escapist-eye view of E3, and we hope the show lives up to its promise. Keep an eye on the front page of The Escapist and on the E3 Page for our video reports, but some of those might not get uploaded until next week.

In addition to the general goings on of the convention, talks with developers and behind-closed-doors looks at upcoming games, The Escapist will also be following the candidacy of Mike Wilson, CEO of Gamecock, as he campaigns for the Presidency of the ESA. While the ESA is not a democratically governed body, and there actually is no election for its president, and Mike, seeing as he’s not a member of the ESA, wouldn’t even be eligible if there was, we’re sure his candidacy will have some meaning. Of some sort. Maybe.

At the very least it will give us an opportunity to spend some time with Team Gamecock, and watch – from a distance – as they continue to evolve their image as the bad boys of gaming. Honestly, we have no idea what they have in store for us, but we expect it will be entertaining.

Last year, their suite at the Hotel California was the scene of many testosterone-charged antics including a stripper-fueled late night bash the same night as Microsoft’s exclusive soiree, and a New Orleans-style funeral march down the Santa Monica beach, celebrating the death of the old E3. No official word has been leaked just yet as to what, exactly, will be going down this year. I was simply told to show up at a specific time and place, and that it would be “fun.” We’ll be hanging on for dear life.

The Escapist will also be providing coverage of the CGS Quarterfinal matches in Santa Monica, and we’ll be talking to leading developers and industry leaders about the state of the industry, E3 and what, exactly, is the future of the ESA.

Did Activision’s defection signal the beginning of the end, or does the trade group and its signature showcase still have some life left in it yet? Our mission is to find out.

Russ Pitts has the best job on the planet. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com

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