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Monday, August 07, 2006 

E3: Just Taking a "Chill Pill"

In case you haven't heard the news (hard to imagine who hasn't, especially anyone remotely interested in gaming), the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has officially been reduced in size by the "Powers That Be." Apparently, the largest annual event in gaming got a bit too large for its own good, with the "press and industry only" week-long event attracting close to about 50,000 visitors this past May.

Because E3 has become an event that many gamers have come to look forward to every year, the news that E3 was being reduced in size came off as an incredible disappointment to many. Last week, thousands of blogs, news outlets, podcasts and AIM profiles sounded off about the event's pending reduction and collectively bemoaned the "Death of E3."

Here at PSTP, however, we're not going to join the cyberspace bitchfest. Why? Well, for starters, E3 really isn't dead. It's just smaller. Sure, attendees no longer have to wait in long lines while getting trampled by cosplayers and fanboys (and going deaf in the process), but seriously, is anyone going to miss that? I don't know about you, but if I were getting paid to report on the latest games as a journalist, I wouldn't want my chance to preview a demo getting spoiled by some rancid-smelling Halo fanboy. And I damn sure wouldn't want to stand in line for over five hours just to get a chance to play the latest hardware, like many had to go through just to get a chance to play with the Nintendo Wii. If anything, I think that as gaming fans, we're all going to benefit from a smaller E3, because journalists will be able to get more hands-on time with the latest systems and games and will get to give us more information during the event. I honestly think it'll work out for all sides involved.

But, the Independents!?

Some have decided to carry the "independent developer" flag and bemoan the loss of Kentia Hall. "Oh, where are they (independents) going to go now?"

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for small indie developers. But let's be real. When was the last time you saw a Kentia Hall product get any kind of real coverage from mainstream media during E3? The most you might see is a quick three paragraph summary about some of the most "interesting" things that were there, and that coverage usually centers around some of the most ridiculous products ever conceived in gaming. In other words, Kentia Hall coverage is usually nothing more than filler with some shock value thrown in for good measure. When you see Kentia Hall coverage, it's usually because news from the main floor of the show has slowed to a trickle. The truth is, E3 was never really a good venue for small indies, because it was just too big. With so many things vying for your attention on the main floors, no one actually went to Kentia Hall because they legitimately wanted to. The big booths cast too large a shadow on the independents, effectively keeping them unfairly out the loop based on appearances alone. As a result, it was hard to take anything in Kentia seriously when the bar was raised incredibly high by the big developers.

At one point in E3's early days, Kentia Hall made sense. Because it was the only real gaming convention of its day at the time, it made sense for anyone developing gaming products to have a booth there. But now, with so many expos to go around, independents would be better suited to a smaller venue where they would be able to stand out on their own merit. Perhaps someone could put together an independent gaming expo?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

While we feel that E3's downsizing is, overall, a good thing, we do acknowledge that E3 2007 can still turn into a complete disaster. With this whole, "invitation-only" business, we just might see companies playing favorites and only allowing specific media outlets to take a stab at their wares. Bashed Sony too much last E3? Well, don't you even think about getting an invite to their section next year. Pulled an IGN and padded review scores? Then step right up and get an exclusive Halo 3 hands-on experience and get to watch Xbox chief, Peter Moore, flex his guns!!!!

You can get all this, if you give "Kameo 2" a 10!

Seriously, a smaller E3 can be extremely successful, but if the event turns into nothing more than a bunch of closed-door meetings instead of the open free-for-all that it was in the past, then E3 will truly be dead, all in the name of "exclusive coverage."

And then, only then, will be join the bitchfest.