Summary: With any change, there are gains and losses, this is inevitable. The more established something is before it's changed, the greater the sense of loss. But what is the actual damage? Read on.
Developers do indeed spend months creating demos, hopefully playable, otherwise not, of games that were otherwise unready. Ugly hacks, scripts, and tricks are used to create the illusion of the game that will eventually come. Much like magicians, the devs use smoke and mirrors to make you believe in something that isnít actually there. That it will be, eventually, is of course the reason why they do this Ė because they need to sell it.
Thatís E3ís real value. Itís not a retailer convention, itís a press and public event. E3 is a spectacle even in a city like Los Angeles, so filled with Hollywood and TV productions, the epicenter of celebrity gossip. The public comes out to the show, the Army demonstrates the elite skills of its Rangers, and the media cannot help but be there. That is the true value of E3.
Itís not just about the gaming media showing up. We already arrive for pre-E3 press events and occasional other shindigs designed to lube up the press. No, the gaming media will show up for the real E3 or the revamped version coming next year. What the real trick is in making a spectacle worthy of the mainstream media. Itís about having CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox come down and cover the show. Even if they say nothing about a specific publisher or game, just the fact that they know itís an event to be covered conveys the message to the broader public that gaming is big. This public then wonders about E3, picks up PC Gamer or does a Google search for E3 on the internet. Then throw in the international media (some of whom might not consider it worth it to come to a scaled-down E3), and you really begin to understand to magnitude of the event. Its importance is not despite its circus-like nature, but because of it.
The thing is, the major publishers can afford to weather the downturn if it occurs. Theyíll be perfect content to fly out several hundred members of the press, from EICs of the big mags down to a representative from a key fansite, to Los Angeles to view their conference Ė or maybe another city altogether. No, the major loss isnít theirs.
It is the smaller companies that lose out. This doesnít even mean the Kentia Hall types, but larger developers like BioWare or smaller publishers. These are the companies that, while the costs of E3 were a significant burden to them, they still gained overall because of the mass concentration of media Ė mainstream and gaming Ė at an event they could never hope to stage by themselves.
An Activision, EA, or UbiSoft can afford to bring in a few hundred members of the press if need be, or to rent a hotel conference room to host them. What can companies like CDProjekt (The Witcher) or 1C (Theater of War) do? Can NCSoft stage a large event by itself? What about Webzen or Sony Online? They can all hold conferences, arguably even cheaper than if they had been performing at E3, but will they get the same attention? Will the media be able to spot the gems in the rough? That is the question.
In an industry already plagued with too much power residing in the hands of publishers, this will only result in more ending up in their hands. E3 needed change, no doubt. The LA Convention Center fleeced the exhibitors by charging $60 for three days rent on an office chair, $18 for an apple and a sandwich, and $1000 per high speed internet connection. There was too much public attendance at the event, and the displays could easily have been more serious. In the end, with the loss of that public display, the publishers will lose. Worse, we gamers will too, with the loss of an opportunity for smaller companies.
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