Monday, June 1, 2009


"I hate E3 like this", says John Riccitiello, CEO of EA. "Terrible", laments Laurent Detoc, president of Ubisoft North America. "The Walking Dead", cries Will Wright of SimCity and Spore fame. "[Insert reports of complaints, as well as complaints of your own]", reported gaming journos ad nauseum.

They were all talking about the "E3 Media and Business Summit 2008", of course. Back in the day, the gianormous trade show, E3, was once the rousing Mecca of Videogameslam, where a medium and those that love it can crow to the world at its ever-growing influence, letting them all know that the videogame industry has credibility, and is here to stay.

But as with the industry itself, a great deal of money and men became involved, and E3 eventually went from Mecca to Sodom, a ludicrously over-crowded, chaotic, expensive, exclusive circus-slash-"escalating arms race", as Wright had cleverly put it. A wretched, prohibitively pricey, gaudy spectacle (See this tacky Gizmondo set? $5 million. BTW, what was Gizmondo? I forget.) A vehicle seemingly designed to enrich the ESA at the expense of, well, everything else; The 2005 show reportedly wrought enough strain to LA's power grid t0 cause blackouts, and by 2006, the show was such a crazed mess that the companies, finally fed up with spending millions of dollars on floor space alone just to promote clearly-rushed product from desperate dev teams (only to drown each other out in cacophony anyway), firmly demanded change, with the whole-hearted support of exhausted gaming journos.

So since 2006, E3 was promptly rechristened with the What-PowerPoint-Did-This-Shit-Fall-Out-From-Under moniker "E3 Media and Business Summit". No more spectacle. No more circuses. No more hordes of filthy nerds. No more booth babes. No more...nothing. Just business. That's ultimately why there's even an E3, after all, and so to business it shall be.

And of course, as you can see above, the industry, along with the aforementioned journos, promptly whined about it anyway.

Some were rightly irked that the gaming faithful were so callously cut out of the picture in favor of the suits, like Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto. Some miss the excitement but still contend correctly that the old format was ultimately "untenable". But most of the rest naturally complained about the now-total lack of circus, or as this IGN reporter flatly states: "The videogame industry needs a spectacle, it needs a circus... and yes, it even needs the booth babes."

"What's the problem", you ask? "I thought we wanted the circus gone", you say? Actually, what the ESA quickly discovered was that the industry and (especially) the press wanted was the OLD-old E3. The one that was still a massive, yet more private circus, or a fun "hobnob", as a former-industry friend of mine put it to me recently. An era in where it became less about games or giving the industry "credibility" and instead more about egos, cool swag, and an atmosphere that lets (often pasty, nerdy) men revel in it like a rockstar. Booth babes? They aren't ridiculous credibility-sapping promo-people that serve as a pseudo-harem for attendees, a trap for dipshit journos, and a massive turn-off for girl gamers everywhere. No, you see, according to this insider, "having those sexy booth babes on the show floor feels like a refreshment to our eyes in all the madness that covering an event like this implies" and that "there are some people that don’t get booth babes. Like those unable to understand absurd humor, there’s nothing to be understood or explained about babes. "

Yeah, I'm pretty sure the show is no longer about industry credibility.

But because the industry and the journos were mostly willing to kid themselves about what E3 really was all about, messages became confused, and to their chagrin E3 became the "walking dead". But the most kidded were too many of the filthy nerd hordes themselves; years of hype from journo publications had drilled into their collective minds that E3 was some sort of mystical Shangri-La of gaming. And it was. For the journos and suits. Hence, "hobnob". For the actual gamers, however (you know, the people actually buying this stuff), they eventually became a mass of peons, getting in the way of the "hobnob", er, that is, the "reporting" and "business deals" in progress. Yet as a result of the hype too many gamers still eagerly defend an event that promptly kicked them to the curb when it was feasible. A "hobnob" that tends to shut out every organization not an 800 lb gorilla (which is especially unfair to many smaller companies and indie devs that, unlike say EA, can at least say they aren't losing money by the barrel). A circus that costs a hefty sum of monies that could've instead gone to paying developers and especially testers fairer wages. And run by an organization that is ruthlessly hostile against competitors, such as they were with PAX, an expo that cares more for gamers than the likes of E3 ever would.

At any rate, the demands of journos, industry men, and some gamers (and the writing on the wall) to "bring E3 back" were enough for the ESA to try just that. And so the ESA this year is attempting to literally have their cake and eat it too; booth babes, glitz, and a bigger (but not too big) audience. Day 1 has ended, and we'll see how the rest of it goes; so far, some of the events were interesting (Beatles' appearance), and some not so much (the James Cameron mega-speech). Either way, it perhaps doesn't look all that great for the once-mighty E3. Several big names have long since dropped out, much to the ESA's ire, with some having smartly decided that it's cheaper to use the Internetz for promoting, or even to just have your own kick-ass show. The smaller companies and indies, most of them tired of being snubbed, have learned to thrive without it. The gamers now have PAX, the craftsmen GDC, and the Europeans the Liepzig GC. And the industry itself has long ago earned worldwide respect and no longer needs spectacles to garner attention; last I checked, it was the Iron Man movie that feared Grand Theft Auto 4's debut and not the other way around. Which leaves the journos and suits begging for the return of booth babes and circuses, to which I suggest they stop beating around the bush and just head to any massage brothel in Downtown with a bottle of JD and a Nintendo DS. It's much cheaper than spending millions of bucks.

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