Friday, August 18, 2006

The Post-E3-Supernova opportunity...

... and what people are missing about it.

Recap: E3 imploded recently.I blogged some thoughts on the reasons (and  implications), but the main ones I cited (and most of the blogosphere seems to agree, though differing on priority order) were:

  • Large pubs and platform vendors were holding their own events for retailers and press to roll out their holiday products on their own terms and schedule.
  • The 'depression' between console cycles, combined with costs of next-gen development, squeezing the publishers coffers.
  • The conference had grown too expensive to warrant the cost, given the two above factors

In the wake of the E3 supernova, there seems to be a wave of event-band-wagon-hopping about how '[insert event name here] is going to be focusing on innovation, creativity, etc, and less on [begin evil tone] making money'

That's all well and good. I think it's hogwash.

Events are businesses. There are those that make their money from attendees (these often are called 'conferences'), those that make their money from exhibitors (often called 'trade shows'), and those that make their money from both. In reality, almost ALL events make money from both, but where they fall on the spectrum between the two determines whether they are conference first, trade show second, or vice versa.

Now, depending who the target customer is (attendee, exhibitor, etc), the event owner needs to determine what that potential customer needs.

Which gets to why the "innovation bandwagon" thing is bugging me. I don't think *either* of those customer bases is going to be helped by making "innovation"  a focus for a conference.

  1. Exhibitors want to show product. Either games to prospective buyers (could be end users, retailers, press - all different types of shows) or prospective partners (e.g. graphics card guys exhibiting at the GDC). In most of those cases, if they have something they consider innovative in their latest product, they'll show it. But they aren't there to market 'the potential' of innovation.
  2. Attendees may come seeking "innovation inspiration", but it's a tall order to fill if you actually *promise it*. It's not like innovation comes in a can and can be dished out in measured quantities. You can certainly bring in creative types, people with track records of delivering innovative titles, etc. But that seems best delivered in the context of a GDC or other such event, where it's addressed along with other issues facing the industry, not just 'stand alone'.

Meanwhile I think the real opportunity (for conference oranizers) is for the "B-list" content providers. Those publishers that *aren't* EA, Activision, Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo. Those vendors still need to connect with buyers and (I hope) buyers are still interested in carrying a selection of product from beyond the biggest 5 or 6 players.

Some people have seen this opportunity. CEA is one of them. They are the folks that run CES. Old timers like m'self will remember that there was a significant and growing gaming contingent at CES before the birth of E3. Perhaps it's true that history repeats itself. 

No comments: