ESA grand poobah Doug Lowenstein has shed some more light on the changes to E3 in a press release and in some interviews. (one of the tidbits being that it is now the Electronic Entertainment Expo Media Festival - E3MF? Whatever...)
One can infer some of the reasons for what I am dubbing The Great E3 Super Nova of 2006, and the resultant Dwarf Star E3 (I like DS-E3 better than E3MF. I'll buy drinks at the conference for whomever regularly refers to it as such, or as The E3 Singularity :-) from the comments:
- It's moving from May to July. While it was noted that this was "to allow publishers more time to work on Xmas products", I think there's more to it than that. E3 was initially targeted as an event to connect retailers (specifically retail buyers) with the product they'd be carrying on shelves that year. July is a little late in the planning cycle to serve that purpose. However, I think that this need was no longer there anyway. (1) Large pubs and platform vendors hold their own events with the retail chains invited, (2) I'm guessing that the console vendors have a say in the portfolio of product carried for their platform - and with PC shelf space shrinking, this is more of it. So the move to July also indicates a different target audience: The Media (and thus the name change), which was initially a secondary audience.
- The event will scale back from 60,000 attendees to 5,000, and from open attendance to invite-only. With the focus being on media, this is really interesting. Who exactly constitutes media in the age of the blogosphere? Who handles the invite list? Will exhibitors be given an allocation? Who handles press invite list specifically and is there only one? Does a bigger spend equal bigger allocation and thus Sony and MS duking it out on who-gets-more-of-their-sycophant-press-in-the-door (which, btw, would mean 'press corps size is the new booth size')?
- It sounds like the decision was driven by "feedback" (ultimatum?) from the larger exhibitors (Sony, MS, EA, perhaps nintendo, etc). Presumably, the now-on-the-ropes Lowenstein will be consulting with them on whatever the new format is - to what degree? Will they steer format in a way that puts further squeeze on the already struggling smaller pubs?
Anyhow, some thoughts on implications.
- I am really frightened about what this means for smaller publishers and market niches, who at least had a chance of getting some exposure, making connections, etc, at the event. Perhaps they are no longer included at all? Sure, you can make an argument that they were doing business parasitically on the backs of those footing the bill of the conference to build critical mass, but hey, fleas and ticks are living creatures too! :-)
- As I said above, I'm worried about how press get qualified and invited. This could turn out to be a blow to games journalism if money steers the invite list away from indie press, those pushing for real stories vs regurgitated messages, and citizen journalists (aka les bloggeurs).
- On a positive note, this could be a boon to market-niche-specific conferences (e.g. segment-specific ones like Casuality, GDC (the industry itself constitutes a niche, lets not forget), Serious Games Conf, or regional ones in specific countries or states. I've already seen Casuality, for example, rival E3 in terms of a venue for partner meetings within the casual games business. I'm sure this will put it in the lead on that front.