Currently, there are talks of changing E3 into something more akin to a festival as many feel that the event is losing its appeal. E3 2019 didn't feel as big and exciting as previous events. Attendance was down slightly from the previous year and many big publishers in the industry, including Sony, were missing from the event. Many publishers feel that there are better ways to promote their work with the advent of the internet and pre-recorded presentations ala Nintendo Direct and State of Play.
If the rebrand goes ahead, it wouldn't be the first time the Electronic Entertainment Expo has gone through a drastic change.
This very same conversation and these very same complaints happened just over a decade ago. In 2007 and 2008, the Electronic Software Association decided to downsize E3 and turn it more into a media summit rather than a trade event. Let's go back and see how those attempts to change E3 went.
The video games industry had a problem with E3 by 2006. Many exhibitors felt like the event was too expensive and attendees felt like it was too crowded. At first, people thought that E3 2007 would be canceled outright. However, afraid that many exhibitors would pull out of the event, the ESA (known then as the IDGA) decided to make some drastic changes.
For the first time since 1997 and 1998, the event was not held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Instead, it would be in Santa Monica's Barker Hanger and certain meetings and presentations would be held in the surrounding hotels. Next, attendance would be capped off at around 10,000 people, way fewer than the previous events which had reached nearly 70,000 attendees. Finally, it would be held in July, instead of the traditional May date.
Dubbed the E3 Media & Business Summit, the event received mixed reviews. For many gamers, the event was a success as it had a lot of strong games. Titles such as Assassin's Creed, BioShock, Super Mario Galaxy, Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of the Patriots, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Mass Effect were demoed or shown off in some manner. All would be seen as classics of the generation and 2007 is often seen as one of the best years in gaming.
On the media side of things, many enjoyed the smaller crowds but complained about the disjointed nature of the event, having to travel in between the Barker Hanger and the various hotels in the surrounding area. Also, the business side didn't like the lack of promotion outside of traditional games media. This devalued the event's ability to promote products to the general public. The move to July also hurt the event as it could be seen as too late in the year to promote upcoming fall titles.
Although many who attended E3 for work were in favor of the smaller event, E3 2007 was not ultimately what they wanted. So the event was changed again, if only slightly, for 2008. The conference would return to the Los Angeles Convention Center but was restricted to only one hall of the building and exhibitors had to use the same set-up and layout as each other. No flash, no pizzazz, not inventive presentation of any kind. It would also be shrunken down even further from 10,000 attendees to 5,000. It did, however, retain its July time period and the Media and Business Summit moniker.
Reviews for this E3 were even worse than the previous one. For gamers, the games were solid but not as great as the previous year. It didn't help that Nintendo had a disastrous press conference, as it was filled with motion controlled titles, most notoriously Wii Music. Still, standouts like Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, inFamous and Left 4 Dead were on display that year. Journalists reportedly had an abysmal time, as many described being at the actual event as depressing. While other events such as the Tokyo Games Show and Leipzig were growing, E3 felt stagnant and without purpose. On the business end, exhibitors felt that they were receiving much less coverage of their games than ever before and predicted that without some significant changes to the format, E3 would die off.
After the two bombs that were E3 2007 and 2008, the event slowly began regaining its footing. E3 2009 was closed to the public but would allow up to 45,000 attendees. It would also be held in June, a happy medium between the previous May and July time slots. Since then, E3 has grown to its former glory, or at least close to its former glory. Only until the past two years has there been trouble for the event once again.
Considering the previous attempts to change E3, these upcoming changes to the event do not have history on their side. On the other hand, these recent changes are attempts to expand the event rather than shrink it so maybe it will work after all.
We can only hope. E3 is a pillar of the video games industry and is considered Christmas for gamers, so it's in all of our best interest for it to find its footing and thrive.
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