E3 Expo Revenues Tripled in 2009 Thanks to LACC Return

April 15, 2011 -

Entertainment Software Association tax documents reveal that the return of the Electronic Entertainment Expo to Los Angeles from Santa Monica managed to net the group $12 million. From 2006 to 2009, the Entertainment Software Association changed the format of its annual trade show several times before settling on its current format.

In 2007 the group attempted to downsize the show and moved it from the Los Angeles Convention Center to nearby Santa Monica. While it made the show smaller, it also raised membership due and show fees, which agitated a number of publishers. In 2008, the ESA returned the show to the LA Convention Center, but kept it small. This resulted in reduced revenues for the show that year - from $3.49 million in 2006 to $3.24 million in 2007. Membership fees that year were not enough to offset that shortfall; ESA dues raised $15.22 million in 2007, down from a high of $17.41 million the year prior.

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Still Alive: E3

June 9, 2009 -

A year ago I pronounced E3 dead.

I was wrong.

Of course, when I wrote those words, the impressive expo staged last week was not what I had in mind. Instead, as 2008's pitiful show wound down, I checked E3 for vital signs and found none. I wasn't alone, of course. E3 2008 was awash in criticism from media and industry types. Even Mr. Sims himself, Will Wright, termed the show "the walking dead."

But this year's E3 has to be - by any measure - rated a success. While it wasn't the exercise in rampant game biz excess that we experienced in prior years, it had ample excitement and plenty of buzz. And, truth be told, sharing the L.A. Convention Center with 41,000 other attendees was a far more pleasant experience than the godawful crush caused by the crowd of 80,000 let into the last big E3 in 2006.

In any case, kudos must be paid to the ESA and its member companies for following up on their commitment to turning E3's sinking ship around. The expo, of course, is the video game industry's annual chance to strut its stuff and it deserves to be a showcase. Hell, gamers want it to be a showcase. It's no secret that gamers drool over E3, yours truly included. Personally, 2009 was my 12th trip to the big dance. I've attended E3 in Atlanta, Santa Monica, and - a bunch of times - at the LACC. Afterward, I return home feeling re-energized about games and maybe even a bit let down by the prospect of life without 50-foot high displays, pulsing lights, amped-up music and booth babes.

To let E3 and its storied history just fade away might seem unthinkable, but that's exactly the direction in which the industry was heading when it allowed bean counters to dictate policy. Thankfully, those who understand just how important E3 is to the video game community stepped in and saved the day.


NCsoft: ESA Departure Not Based on Finances

December 8, 2008 -

On Saturday, GamePolitics broke the news that MMO publisher NCsoft was the latest company to leave the ranks of game industry trade association the ESA.

At the time GP speculated that the move might have been financially motivated. NCsoft has, after all, experienced some setbacks in recent months.

However, NCsoft's Director of Public Relations, David Swofford, assures us that the decision to leave the ESA is not related to those issues. NCsoft released this statement concerning its ESA membership:

While we appreciate what the ESA does for our industry, we can confirm that NCsoft has elected not to keep membership with the ESA for 2009.

This decision was not financially motivated, as indicated in your story. There have been many changes in the gaming industry over the past couple of years and, like other developers and publishers, we have decided to wait to see how related industry events and organizations further develop before rejoining. We will be reviewing our membership status on an annual basis.

In a phone interview Swofford elaborated on NCsoft's position and pointed out that, prior to leaving, the company did not have a long history as an ESA member:

We joined [ESA] for one year and then we decided we wouldn't [renew].  We think everything the ESA does is great. Right now the timing is just not right for us to be a member of the ESA.

Swofford also told GP that trade show issues are very important for NCsoft, which exhibited at PAX this year, but not E3:

Everyone is looking to see how E3 plays out now.

So, might NCsoft rejoin the ESA fold at some point in the future?

Absolutely. We're going to assess that on a yearly basis.


GameCo CEOs Who Trashed E3 2008 Now Singing a Different Tune

October 23, 2008 -

We couldn't help noticing that yesterday's E3 2009 press release the ESA included quotes from two of the most prominent video game industry critics of the 2008 expo.

Both John Riccitiello of Electronic Arts and Laurent Detoc of Ubisoft USA run ESA member companies, so their harsh criticisms of this year's show certainly stung the ESA. It is significant that they are on board with the new format.

Then and now, here's what Riccitiello and Detoc had to say about E3:


(July, 2008) I hate E3 like this. Either we need to go back to the old E3, or we'll have to have our own private events.

(yesterday) The E3 Expo will be the pre-eminent North American gaming show next year. The new, larger event is better for industry leaders and for serious gamers.


(July, 2008) E3 this year is terrible. The world used to come to E3. Now it's like a pipe-fitters show in the basement.


(yesterday) The video game business will be twice as big in 2009 as it was in 2006 when we had the last real E3 Expo - so get ready for some fireworks! The changes made will ensure that the 2009 E3 Expo conveys the best of what makes us proud as entertainment leaders.


Report: Details on E3 2009 Revealed Tonight

October 20, 2008 -

E3 2008 was a disaster. But what will the 2009 version look like - provided there is one?

According to Destructoid, all will be revealed tonight on G4's X-Play, hosted by Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb.

GP: Since there is hoopla involved, the ESA must be holding E3 next year - and it must be a very different animal (because if it was the same, everyone at ESA would be fired). Here are the possibilities as we see them:

  • open to the public
  • open to the public & combined with that other L.A.-based flop, E for All
  • back to the pre-2007 extraganza, but open to industry and media only
  • an entirely new show with an entirely new name... in an entirely new city?

UPDATE: I'm hearing unconfirmed reports that the ESA - which owns and operates E3 - is not on board with whatever E3 news G4 has planned for tonight.

UPDATE 2: G4 reports that E3 2009 will remain in L.A., but offer public admission - for a fee. Expect the ESA to drop the official announcement on Tuesday morning.


Is Codemasters the Latest Publisher to Bail on the ESA?

October 9, 2008 -

And then there were 22...

When 2008 began, the Entertainment Software Association, the lobbying group which represents U.S. video game publishers, had 28 member companies. Several well-publicized departures, however, reduced its ranks to 23 companies by the time that E3 rolled around in July.

A glance at current ESA membership reveals that prominent British game publisher Codemasters is no longer listed as part of the organization.

While there has been no announcement from the ESA, Codemasters' departure must be a fairly recent development. The publisher of the Operation Flashpoint and Colin McRae Rally series was officially reported to be an ESA member as recently as E3. An ESA booklet, Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, distributed at the show, lists the firm as a member on page 12.

Codemasters thus apparently becomes the sixth publisher to leave the ESA since May, following Activision, Vivendi, LucasArts, id, and Crave out the door.

We have a request in to the ESA for comment.

GP: There has been speculation for some time that additional member companies might leave the ESA after E3. Current global economic conditions certainly can't be helpful to the ESA in its efforts to retain members.

UPDATE: The ESA has confirmed that Codemasters has left its membership ranks. A statement from Senior Vice President of Communications and Research Rich Taylor this morning says:

We can confirm that Codemasters has decided not to renew its ESA membership.  We respect Codemasters’ decision and look forward to continuing to work with them on issues of mutual interest.


EA Hyped Dead Space Violence at E3

September 9, 2008 -

While mere gamer mortals wait to see whether the gaming gods at EA will deign to reveal whether or not the rumors that Dead Space has been banned in three countries are true, here's an interesting point.

Hyping the intense violence of Dead Space is clearly a large part of EA's marketing strategy for the game.

EA was upfront about the game's blood and gore factor at its E3 2008 press conference in Los Angeles. Very upfront. Check out G4TV's video feed of the event. Fast foward to 10:45. That's when Dead Space executive producer Glen Schofield walks onstage. Here's what he says about the violence:

For the past two-and-a-half years, my team and I have been creating a game that's a bit of a departure for EA. It's a very M-rated, sci-fi survival-horror game called Dead Space. [crowd cheers] That's what I like to hear...


Dead Space is the story of Isaac Clarke... we focused deeply on creating a rich story and pushed EXTREMELY hard on the horror elements. But we also innovated on our main gameplay features such as zero gravity...


And our core gameplay mechanic is - strategic dismemberment, which is a clinical term for you have to tear these creatures apart limb-by-limb in order to kill 'em...

Several minutes of game play follow... Schofield returns to the stage at 16:05:

[crowd cheers] ...Thank you. Dead Space will be available on the 360, the PS3 and the PC on October 21st. Now we just showed you some action in our live demo. I'd like to leave you with a gameplay trailer that really sets the mood and tone of Dead Space. This trailer is made with 100% gameplay footage. And I hope you're all over 17 for this one. Thank you... [trailer starts up]

GameStop's product page for Dead Space also hypes the violence. The first two bullet points are:

  • Strategic dismemberment—Shear off limbs with powerful weapons as you carve a bloody path through the alien hordes. Find ways to neutralize attacking enemies effectively or they’ll keep coming at you. When ammo runs low, use telekinesis to pick up objects—even the enemies’ own arms and legs!—and fire them at anything that stands in your way.
  • Terror in the far reaches of space—A blood-curdling interactive horror experience features state-of-the art graphics and effects, a panic-inducing audio system, and a truly frightening atmosphere of death and despair.

So... do rumors of a ban help fuel the marketing of Dead Space as a "bad boy" of EA's gaming stable?


Report: Opening E3 to the Public Under Discussion

September 3, 2008 -

Kotaku reports that the ESA's board of directors is considering opening the trade-only E3 Expo to the general public.

That's not at all surprising, given that the show at the Los Angeles Convention Center was an unmitigated disaster this year. It's only natural that the ESA and its board would be evaluating their options.

GameSpot got a corporate-speak comment from ESA exec Rich Taylor on the issue:

As we do every year, the ESA solicits feedback and direction from exhibitors and attendees on how best to adapt and evolve the E3 Media & Business Summit to ensure it meets their needs. Each element of the Summit is opened for discussion, and that process is ongoing to execute a productive and efficient experience. Regarding today's published reports, the ESA does not comment on rumors and speculation, and will make an announcement about the details and logistics of the 2009 E3 Media & Business Summit at the appropriate time.


Will Wright: E3 is "the Walking Dead"

August 29, 2008 -

While E3 bashing has quieted with the passage of time, new comments by famed game designer Will Wright have driven another nail into the show's coffin.

In an interview with gamesindustry.biz, Wright likened E3 to a zombie - and not in a positive, Resident Evil fashion:

It almost feels like a zombie at this point; it's the walking dead. It's such an abrupt end to what was E3, which had been this huge escalating arms race.


I understand why they really pulled the plug on the big E3. Looking at the amount of money a company like EA would spend on it, it was ridiculous amounts of money just to be present and competitive with everyone else, so I think they were looking for a way to sign the arms treaty and de-escalate the whole thing.


Right now we're in this kind of dicey, do we have an event, what event is it, which one do we go to? I think we're in an uncomfortable transition zone when really the real E3 died a couple of years ago.



ESA Surveying Attendees for E3 Feedback

July 29, 2008 -

In the wake of this month's poorly-regarded E3, the ESA is using e-mail to survey attendees concerning the show.

While the 20-question survey is a rather brief and not especially probing, it's good to see the ESA, which has operated the show since it began in the mid-90's, beginning to do damage control.

On the other hand, most, if not all, of E3 08's problems have already been well-documented by the gaming press.


Peter Moore: Soulless, Fragmented E3 Can Be Fixed

July 25, 2008 -

Calling this year's E3 "soulless" and "fragmented," EA exec Peter Moore (left), who has livened up a few E3 press conferences with wild game launch tatoos, maintains that show operator the ESA and its member game publishers can put things right.

gamesindustry.biz reports on Moore's remarks:

There was a palpable sense of frustration at the structure and logistics from all participants, from publishers like ourselves to the working press and financial analysts.


Soulless and lacking an epicentre, the fragmented layout gave no indication whatsoever that we are the fastest growing entertainment medium in the world. While I am not sure I want to revert back to the old days of excess and one-upmanship, I do know that this format isn’t working.


We're confident that we can work with the ESA to make this right. There are important meetings ahead that we think will be substantive and be productive in finding the right path forward.  

As others, including ECA head Hal Halpin have suggested, Moore raises the possibility of inviting gamers to future expos:

Let's invite the community. With the right planning, involving our biggest fans in E3 would bring back some of the raw passion the event has lost.


Whether it's E3, or whether it's in our forums, my belief is bringing in the fans helps us to create better games and bring new ideas to the market.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics....

Sega U.S. CEO Stands Behind ESA but Wants Better E3

July 24, 2008 -

Sega of America president Simon Jeffery (left) has become the latest industry heavyweight to opine on E3, offering support for the Entertainment Software Association, which operates the show, but at the same time calling for changes in future editions of the expo:

As reported by MCVUK, Jeffery said:

E3 was a strange beast this year. We had an extremely strong product showing, had some great meetings, and got our messaging over pretty strongly – all at an event that had all the atmosphere of a large hospital corridor.


We [at Sega] are big supporters of the ESA, and believe in an efficient need to communicate with the trade at all levels, but we’d like to see something that represents the fun, dynamic nature of the industry a little better without going back to the insanity that was E3 of old.

Jeffery also took a shot at Activision and other publishers which left the ESA this year:

I’m not at all happy with the principal of coat tailing. It’s like not paying your taxes but still expecting all the government services. I know that the ESA will work hard to bring those publishers back on board, and we believe in them.



ECA's Hal Halpin Offers Historical Perspective on E3

July 24, 2008 -

The ranks of those who have weighed in on last week's disappointing E3 is both long and distinguished.

Add Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin to the list, but with a unique twist.

In his analysis of the show for GameDaily, Hal reveals much of the backstory as to the origins of E3:

[E3] was conceived as a standalone show... as [the game biz] matured back in the early nineties. Game publishers were members of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and showed their wares at...  (CES) - a gargantuan event, which is still held in the Las Vegas Convention Center.... As the sector grew and the confines of the LVCC did not... Game publishers complained to each other about their second-class treatment and talked of their own show.


...the publishers approached the CES staff and CEA about a CEA-owned and run dedicated gaming event. The CEA board passed, likely thinking that the up-and-coming business was a fad [and] led the disenfranchised games folks to launch the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), the predecessor of the ESA... the brand new trade association... created a joint venture with IDG, the publishers of GamePro magazine and a formidable event marketing and publishing business... E3 was born.

There's more history in the GD article. If that kind of thing interests you, check it out. Going forward, Hal believes E3 will surive and suggests a less cavernous venue than the LACC as well as offering public admission during the show's final days, as per the Tokyo Games Show:

...the fate of E3 is far from set in stone... I'd have to respectfully disagree that the show is either the raving success that one outlet described or that it is dead, as many have stated. E3 is standing upon the precipice. There are no easy decisions here...

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics


Did ESA Boss Endorse PEGI Over BBFC at E3?

July 24, 2008 -

MCVUK writes that Entertainment Software Association CEO Michael Gallagher (left) endorsed the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) rating system over that of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) during last week's state-of-the-industry speech at E3 in Los Angeles.

From the MCVUK report:

As part of his keynote speech, Gallagher was critical of the Byron Report’s highly controversial backing of the BBFC system – and made it clear that the Entertainment Software Association believes it was the wrong way to go.

MCVUK is referring to this section of the Gallagher speech:

Friends and allies across the globe are facing their own challenges. Our success as a business and entertainment medium has caught the attention and the interest of foreign regulators and governments. Earlier this year we saw the release of the Byron Report, which praised the ESRB's work with retailers to help enforce sales restrictions to minors. We are now seeing a robust debate between the BBFC and PEGI. And while this is a European question requiring a European solution, our American experience proves that industry self-regulation is the best way to provide parents the information they need to make appropriate purchasing decisions.

Frankly, we're not reading Gallagher's remarks as expressing criticism of the Byron Review, although the ESA head's preference for self-regulation is clear. On the other hand, it would be natural for the ESA to back PEGI, as its UK game industry counterparts, including publishers' group ELSPA, have expressed a clear distaste for handing game rating responsibilities over to the BBFC.

We've got a request in to the ESA for clarification on Gallagher's view. In the meantime, you can read the full text of Gallagher's E3 speech here.


Sony's Fat Princess Causing Controversy

July 24, 2008 -

It’s not always easy to predict which video games are going to upset people. 

One of the games that debuted at last week’s E3 was Sony and Titan Studios’ upcoming PSN title Fat Princess, a cartoony, capture-the-flag game in which the object is to rescue your princess from the enemy’s dungeon.  The hook is that the enemy is plumping up your princess with cake, making her more and more difficult to haul back.

It’s cute.  It’s colorful.  It’s surprisingly bloody. And, from many reports, it’s a lot of fun. But, according to Joystiq, at least two feminist bloggers have taken issue with the fat part of Fat Princess.

Shakesville’s Melissa McEwan says in an open letter to Sony:

[Fat Princess]  looks and sounds just adorable—but the only thing I can't figure out is why anyone would want to rescue a fat princess in the first place, since everyone knows that fat girls are unlovable human garbage at whom any sensible bloke would sooner hurl invective than cast a longing glance... I'm positively thrilled to see such unyielding dedication to creating a new generation of fat-hating, heteronormative assholes.

Meanwhile, Feminist Gamers’ Mighty Ponygirl offers her take:

Honestly, the “core game mechanics” are brilliant, and if I didn’t care one whit about the objectification of women or fat-bashing, I would think this was the best thing since… well, Team Fortress 2…


Instead of running out into the forest to find cake to fatten up the princess with, why not go out and find gold (which is a lot heavier than cake) to stuff into a treasure chest. The more gold in the chest, the heavier it would be, and the harder it would be to carry.


Oh, but that’s not as “cute” as cake and fat chicks. Right.

For his part, Titan Studios' art director, James Green, said in an email to Joystiq:

Does it make it better or worse that the concept artist (who designed the look, characters, everything) is a girl?

-Reporting from San Diego, GP Correspondent Andrew Eisen prefers ice cream...


Report: ESA Committed to Holding E3 in 2009

July 23, 2008 -

The Entertainment Software Association, which operates E3, has told GameSpot that despite rampant criticism of this year's expo the game publishers trade association is already gearing up for the 2009 show.

No additional details were provided. GameSpot attributes this quote to to an unnamed ESA rep:

As we do every year, we're beginning the process of surveying exhibitors and attendees to determine potential changes to the Summit. Once this is completed and shared with the ESA's Board of Directors, we will make an announcement about the specifics of the 2009 E3 Media & Business Summit, which will occur.

GP: While it is the nature of organizations to put on a brave face, there are a couple of facts that need to be weighed against the ESA rep's comments.

The first is that since E3 '08 wrapped up less than a week ago it seems a bit early to commit to a 2009 show. One might expect that exhibitor debriefs as well as a thorough E3 post-mortem need to take place in order to sort out what went wrong and determine whether it is fixable. That's especially true given the fairly widespread negative reaction to this year's expo, including this rather definitive comment attributed by the San Francisco Chronicle to EA CEO John Riccitiello:

I hate E3 like this. Either we need to go back to the old E3, or we'll have to have our own private events.

Moreover, the ESA rep's comment seems to imply that the ESA will tell the board of directors (which is comprised of top execs from ESA member game publishers) what's happening with E3, but we'd expect it will be the other way 'round. And since EA happens to be chairing the ESA board this year, one has to wonder. 


More on Disappointing E3 from Ars Technica, MacWorld

July 23, 2008 -

Media reaction to 2008's disappointing E3 continues...

Calling this year's show a "complete dud," Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica weighs in with his own four-point program for reviving the once-great expo:

  • Take pride in outward appearances... A few banners for big-name games, some creativity in the meeting rooms... these things would go a long way towards getting people excited about the show.
  • The keynote should be given by someone we want to hear from... Texas Governor Rick Perry delivered this year's keynote, and it sounded more like a commercial for Texas than analysis into the industry... Give us someone who actually makes games, who can speak to why we love this business... How can a show that is completely filled with interesting games and fascinating people have a keynote so stupefyingly boring?

  • If you have a press conference, make it worth going to... Sitting through a press conference, in most cases, is a waste of time that you could spend getting more hands-on experience or talking to people. It's easier and quicker to skip the meeting, grab the press materials, and be done with it.

  • Find a new, better venue. Hint: it doesn't have to be in LA...  Why not move it? ...From a social, technological, and even convenience standpoint, Vegas has it all over the Los Angeles convention center.

In his critique of E3, Peter Cohen of MacWorld focuses on game publishers, the ESA and its president, Michael Gallagher:

Last week the E3 [expo]... took place, but you probably wouldn't have known it unless you're in the video game business... the event came up short... and the shortcomings weren't missed or overlooked by gaming executives... They miss the spectacle of the old show... They miss the grandeur, the attention the world paid. In short, they miss some of the same things that, two years ago, they were complaining about.


The ESA [which runs E3] has had a tough year. The organization, which represents the video game industry on Capitol Hill... has lost several high-profile members... Some attribute the defections to a change in leadership... Doug Lowenstein, the organization's founder and former president, stepped down in 2007... [and] was replaced by Michael Gallagher, a refugee from the telecom industry who maintains a much lower profile than Lowenstein ever did...


There's certainly a place for a major gaming event in North America... One thing is for sure--the way [the game industry is] doing it just isn't working for anyone, not the industry, not the public, not the press.



E3 or Not E3 Debate Rages On

July 22, 2008 -

VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi is the latest to weigh in on E3's future (or potential lack thereof).

Although of Dean's sources have already been cited here on GamePolitics, he did some quick polling of media and industry types yesterday and found some new voices ready to weigh in:

Joseph Olin, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences offered a succinct perspective:

The irony is that we have a cultural revolution, with more people enjoying interactive entertainment than at any other time in our history; the video game industry has never been better. And you would think that we are going out of business here. We’ve lost the opportunity to stand up on our soap boxes and shout, look at me. The one thing the traditional E3 did was light the place up like a roman candle lit at both ends and focus the world’s media attention on us.

ECA boss Hal Halpin suggested combining E for All with E3 in a format more like that of the Tokyo Game Show. Meanwhile, game designer David Perry called the 2008 show an embarrassment and suggested opening it up to all game developers and publishers.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, The Game Reviews has E3 quotes from noted developer Denis Dyack:

I think this has definitely been better for the industry, simply because the amount of cost that was sunk into 2006 was not supportable. It could not have continued much longer. It was funny because I remember 2005 and 2006, and I was talking to people going, "I do not even know why we are doing this stuff anymore, delaying games by like two quarters to do these demos to get "Best in Show for E3" that really does not mean that much." And suddenly it crashed; it was like the Berlin Wall falling in 2006 after they announced it.

I do not really understand at some level why it all needs to be shown all at once. I would rather like to see it more like press junkets when stuff comes out, with a rotation for [press] to cover things in a really thorough and critical way. So I think this is better because it is smaller, but I think it would be better if it was not around at all. Nothing against ESA, but you know, I think, ’Oh well, there is another controversial thing I just said.’

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.


Pachter: E3 Headed for Extinction

July 21, 2008 -

On Saturday I wrote in my Joystiq column that E3 is dead.

This is my strongly-formed impression based on the sorry state of last week's show at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Calling the LACC "quiet as a college library during summer," Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter raises similar concerns.

Pachter recaps the show in a note issued this morning:

The show was small in scope, and the spectacle of E3 is dead. The Los Angeles Convention Center concourse was as quiet as a college library during summer, with little to attract media attention. The main game display area was similar in size to a school cafeteria (as compared to filling the entire convention center)...


E3 is headed for extinction, unless the publishers and console manufacturers wake up to the fact that nobody cares about the show anymore... [the] show is ill-timed, coming after most major holiday announcements are out, and landing during [SEC-mandated] “quiet period” for most of the companies...  The lack of a spectacle will likely keep media away in the future, the lack of surprises will keep retailers away, and the lack of interaction with management will likely keep investors away...


We strongly believe that E3 should be held no later than early June (when companies can meet with investors and when some “secrets” have yet to be revealed), and believe that the spectacle should be restored by increasing the size of the show space. 

Pachter goes on to say that game publishers made a mistake by insisting on a smaller show in order to save money:

This is the second year of the new, slimmed-down E3 format demanded by the Entertainment Software
Association’s membership in order to control the significant costs incurred for prior E3 events. We believe that the smaller scale is a mistake, and believe that the media attention attracted by prior shows had far greater value than most of the ESA’s members appreciated.



GP on Joystiq: Requiem for a Heavyweight

July 19, 2008 -

...the one in which GP explains why you can stick a fork in E3.

Catch it only on Joystiq...


At E3, Texas Guv Met With EA; Not All Texans Are Happy with His Visit

July 18, 2008 -

As GamePolitics reported yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) met with industry giant Electronic Arts at E3.

Perry's chat with EA CEO John Riccitiello apparently took place after his poorly-attended keynote speech and an ESA-escorted tour (left) of the expo's tiny show floor.

As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, Perry described his visit with Riccitiello:

We're talking to these guys and saying, 'What's it take to get you to move to Austin, Texas?' You tell us what we need to do to be competitive, then our guys will sit down and look at it ... and see what we can do... The mentality is, 'We love California, it's a great state and a hip state, but Jiminy Cricket, it's costing us a lot of money to stay out here.'

Meanwhile, Empower Texans, an Austin-based nonprofit group which focuses on fiscal responsibility, has criticized Perry's trip, telling its Texas-based readers that they are being "joysticked":

The governor and Legislature are taking aim at your wallet with a little video game waste. Unfortunately, this isn't the virtual variety but the real-world deal. Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants lawmakers to give video game manufacturers boatloads of money to get them to design their games in the Lone Star State. This is corporate welfare at its worst. This is a $9-plus billion industry that is referred to as "recession-proof." They don't need your money.


Texas taxpayers already subsidize the industry to the tune of $250,000 per game made here... This is one barrel taxpayers should definitely jump.


Fear and (Self) Loathing at E3

July 18, 2008 -

Video game execs apparently hated this week's E3 .

They shouldn't feel bad. Everyone else hated it too.

I'll have more to say about that, but for now, digest these quotes from today's San Francisco Chronicle:

John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts:

I hate E3 like this. Either we need to go back to the old E3, or we'll have to have our own private events.

Laurent Detoc, president of Ubisoft North America:

E3 this year is terrible. The world used to come to E3. Now it's like a pipe-fitters show in the basement.



ESA Head Delivers State-of-the-Biz Speech

July 17, 2008 -

ESA CEO Michael Gallagher (left) addressed the E3 crowd for the first time yesterday afternoon. Gallagher, hired in May, 2007, opted out of speechifying at last July's E3 in Santa Monica, citing newness in the position.

Yesterday's 2008 state-of-the-industry address was a workmanlike effort that had no major high or low points.

Although not seemingly a natural public speaker, Gallagher delivered a credible performance which would have been helped greatly by a warmer venue and better attendance. By our estimate, only 75-100 people caught Gallagher's speech, delivered in a cavernous meeting room at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Why not utilize the LACC's cozy theater, as the ESA has in years past?

The biggest disappointment in our view was that there was no audience Q&A following Gallagher's address. The ESA boss did, however, field one-on-one questions from media types after his talk.

Gallagher termed the current era the "golden age" of gaming and made five recommendations for going forward: 

  • Remember our base. Never forget our loyal fanbase. We must continually push forward and look for new tech to keep them interested and involved.
  • Welcome new gamers. Welcome in converts who've joined us recently, continue to serve them, as well.
  • Broaden the use of games. Remembering it is still play, games are increasingly not just recreational. And this is a good thing and a growth trend that must be protected and strengthened.
  • Help parents. We must continue to look for innovative ways to ensure games are parent-approved. All hardware providers include parental controls; this a great step. They now need education on how to use parental tools such as these controls.
  • We must unite to support our policy interests.

The "remember the base" remark is oddly remiscent of partisan politics. Gallagher, of course, was a Bush Administration official before taking the helm at ESA. Although GameSpot felt that Gallagher took a shot at his predecessor, Doug Lowenstein with this remark:

In my predecessor's time, our organization was fighting politicians, not having them embrace us.

...we didn't take it that way, believing that Gallagher was simply commenting on the times. After all, if politicians have learned that they can't successfully legislate game content, those battles were either won or begun on Lowenstein's watch.

As with Gov. Perry's keynote, I live-blogged Gallagher's speech on Twitter. I've pasted those observations in after the jump. Once again, these are unedited SMS messages, entered via mobile phone. Please forgive misspellings, punctuation, etc.

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Texas Guv Delivers Businesslike E3 Keynote to Near-Empty Room

July 17, 2008 -

What if you gave a keynote speech and (almost) nobody came?

That was the situation in which Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) found himself at E3 yesterday. Despite being selected as the first political figure to keynote the ESA's annual trade show, Perry attracted an audience estimated to have been between 50-60 people, including ESA employees. The sparse attendance was accentuated by the cavernous room reserved for the speech, which was set up with hundreds and hundreds of chairs.

Despite the lack of onlookers, the Guv soldiered on, delivering in his folksy style a credible speech touting the benefits of running a business in Texas, the creativity and success of the video game industry and touting the Lone Star State as a great spot for game developers to set up shop.

Following his speech, Perry was escorted (left) by ESA boss Mike Gallagher to the small space that passed for a show floor where he viewed some displays and spoke with G4's Adam Sessler. As he was leaving, we thought we heard someone say that he was headed for EA next. Perhaps the Guv was hoping to persuade EA to bring some biz to Texas.

So why didn't anyone show up for the keynote, an obvious embarrassment for the ESA? There are several possibilities:

  • The show had already opened when the Guv spoke. In years past, the keynote opened the show. Pent-up E3 enthusiasm would find its first outlet at the keynote because there was nothing else competing with it. The room was always packed.
  • The ESA used to put out a breakfast of some sort for the media types just prior to the keynote, always a solid strategy to lure a pack of perpetually broke game journos.
  • Attendance at the show was perhaps 5% of what it once was. Naturally, there are fewer potential attendees for any single event.
  • Some people may not have wanted to hear from a politician in general; some may not wanted to hear from Gov. Perry specifically

Although there was no question & answer segment such as former ESA boss Doug Lowenstein used to hold following his keynotes, I really wasn't expecting a major political figure Like Perry to hold a Q&A in this setting.

While on hand at the keynote I live-blogged my immediate impressions via Twitter. These have been pasted in after the jump.

30 comments | Read more

Texas Guv Dishes on Today's E3 Keynote

July 16, 2008 -

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who will deliver today's keynote address at E3 in Los Angeles, explains his decision to appear in a guest column for the San Antonio Express-News:

...Although high resolution graphics, new storylines and technological advancements will grab most of the headlines coming out of [E3], I would encourage a closer look at the real story: the emergence of a bonafide economic engine...


Seemingly overnight, the video game industry has become a major player, with over $18.8 billion in U.S. sales last year. The industry in Texas has kept pace with the national trend... it is clear the computer and video game industry is on fire... To help further encourage the industry... Texas has instituted measures that offer qualifying video game developers financial incentives similar to those offered to the film industry...


In barely more than a generation, video games have transformed a diversion for the few into a mass medium. The notion that gaming is confined to adolescent males is long outdated. Recent research has shown that the average video game player is 35 and that 40 percent of gamers are women.


Today, games help people of all ages to live, learn, work and, of course, play... There are those who might see only gloom and doom in our national economy. We should look to sectors like the video game industry that have embraced the notion of global competition and follow their example to greater prosperity.


GP: This is probably the first time we've seen such a public expression of support for the game biz from a major political figure. GamePolitics will be live-blogging the Guv's keynote which begins at 9:15 PST.

We'll also be live-blogging ESA boss Michael Gallagher's state-of-the-industry speech at 1:15 PST.

To follow those live reports, jump over to Twitter and follow GamePolitics


Follow GP @ E3 on Twitter Today

July 15, 2008 -

As I did yesterday for the Xbox and EA press conferences, I will be live-blogging Nintendo and Sony today via Twitter.

Nintendo starts at 9AM. Sony is at 11:30 (Pacific Time).

If you have a Twitter account (they're simple & free to get), simply follow GamePolitics for my updates during the events.



Dallas Morning New Reports on Texas Guv's Upcoming E3 Keynote

July 15, 2008 -

Reporter Victor Godinez writes about tomorrow's E3 keynote speech in the Dallas Morning News.

As GamePolitics has reported previously, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) will deliver the Expo's keynote. Having a political figure speak at E3 is a first for the show. Godinez quotes Perry spokeswoman Krista Piferrer on Perry's E3 appearance:

Texas is one of the top states in the nation for the gaming industry. We want to build this industry in the Lone Star State... I think there are a few other states who have [a Texas-like tax] incentive program [for game developers], but it's not very far and wide.

As we've noted before, however, Texas' game developer tax breaks are fraught with content restrictions, unlike those in other states with such incentives.

Godinez notes that more than 2,000 people work in the game biz in Texas, adding over $340 million to the state's economy.


E3 Relevancy Probed by L.A. Times, Cnet

July 14, 2008 -

With E3 press conferences getting into full swing this morning, Alex Pham of the Los Angeles Times examines what has become of the once-huge video game extravanganza

Swinging from circus romp to buttoned-down boring, the annual video game confab known as E3 kicks off today in downtown Los Angeles like an overgrown teenager grappling with an identity crisis and longing for the world to take it seriously.

Now in its 14th year, an undercurrent of factionalism has cast a shadow over what should be the $40-billion industry's biggest event...

Pham spoke with Disney Interactive exec Graham Hopper, an ESA board member who expressed concern about defections by several game publishers, including Activision:

It's more important than ever for the industry to be able to speak with a clear voice on those [political and regulatory] issues... The game industry is emerging as an important cultural voice in the entertainment world...

Spike TV's Geoff Keighley expressed concerns of his own:

E3 used to be such a spectacle. As much as everyone groaned about it, everyone still saw it as a national stage for the industry... I don't think people are convinced the ESA is doing as good of a job as it can be... [The Fox News attack on Mass Effect] was the perfect opportunity for the ESA to step up, and they were nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, Cnet's Daniel Terdiman takes his own look at the 2008 E3. ESA VP Rich Taylor told Terdiman:

We'll know the result... as we get throughout the week. But all indications are, from early feedback and the way things are teed up, that folks are looking forward to a very successful and positive week... Hardware sucks the oxygen out of the room very easily [at E3]. In non-console-launch years, the software becomes the focus (and) we get to see so much of the creativity coming from game developers and game designers.

G4TV host Adam Sessler was enthusiastic:

We're going crazy over E3. This is definitely the biggest [E3] in terms of the amount of games you can see... So we're having 35 live demos on our stage.



Jack Thompson Reacts to ESA Head's "Rearview Mirror" Comment

July 14, 2008 -

On Saturday VentureBeat posted Dean Takahashi's excellent, eve-of-E3 interview with ESA CEO Michael Gallagher.

Among his remarks, Gallagher took a rare shot at embattled anti-game attorney Jack Thompson, telling Takahashi:

[Thompson] is in the rear view mirror... The bright future that lies in front of us does not include Jack Thompson...

Naturally, we couldn't resist asking the volatile Thompson for his reaction to Gallagher's remarks. In an e-mail to Gallagher, cc'd to GamePolitics, Thompson wrote:

Dear Mike:


I really enjoyed your "Jack Thompson is in the rearview mirror" comment.  I think it is a reasonable thing to say, based upon what you think you know about what is going on between me and The Florida Bar, but in fact it is not accurate.  You don't know what is going on behind the scenes.
What I would like you to know, however, is that I plan to file a lawsuit this week against the ESA.  It's about time.  If you think my current, soon to be past, Bar problems are an impediment to that suit, think again...

I look forward to the entire video game industry having the  ESA and the ESRB in its rearview mirror.  That should be accomplished soon.

GP: The lawsuit of which Thompson speaks is apparently some type of RICO allegation. We've asked for more details but are taking a wait-and-see attitude as to whether this one ever happens. Not every lawsuit Thompson threatens actually gets filed, and this one in particular has the whiff of a non-starter.

Thompson also sent Gallagher the picture included in this report, which is, we have to admit, an amusing touch.

Getting all of the Thompson news out of the way so we can focus on E3, the controversial barrister has - not unexpectedly - filed several motions with the Florida Supreme Court, objecting to last week's report by Judge Dava Tunis which recommended that he be disbarred for life.


GP at E3

July 12, 2008 -

I'm traveling to Los Angeles today but I promised to post my E3 itinerary. So, here goes:

Monday, July 14th:

  • 10:30 Microsoft Press Conference - LACC
  • 3:00 EA Press Conference, Orpheum Theater
  • 5:00 Into the Pixel Reception, LACC (might ditch this, depends; it's an open invite and the art will be there all week to be viewed)
  • 8:30 Gears of War 2 reception (dunno, sometimes things like this at E3 have a line around the block.)

Tuesday, July 15th:

  • 9:00 Nintendo Press Conference, Kodak Theater
  • 11:30 Sony Press Conference, The Shrine
  • 2:30 Ubisoft Press Conference, LACC
  • 7:00 Activision Press Conference (eager to see how Activision's we're not at E3 but we are vibe plays)
  • 8:00 Bethesda Party  (may not get there, but it's cool to be invited)
  • 8:00 Fable 2 Party (ditto)

Wednesday, July 16th:

  • 9:15 Gov. Perry Keynote, LACC (probably a live blogging)
  • 10:45 Take-Two Press Conference, LACC (no big news expected, but you never know with T2)
  • 12:00 Meeting, THQ, LACC (Saints Row 2, Viva Pinata, Pocket Paradise)
  • 1:15 ESA Mike Gallagher State-of-the-Industry speech, LACC (again, may live blog)
  • 2:00 EA Demo Room (Littlest Pet Shop, sports titles, My Sims, My Sims Kingdom, Spore, Mercenaries 2, Warhammer Online, iPhone titles)
  • 5:00 Michael Pachter party (hors d'oeuvres, cocktails & ...quotes)
  • 6:00 EA reception 740
  • 7:00 Rock Band 2 Event & concert (this is a hot ticket - they literally send you a ticket, but I can't miss Hal's dinner at a very cool restaurant)
  • 8:00 Dinner with Hal Halpin & ECA team (at our get-together last year in Santa Monica the fire alarm wouldn't stop ringing and they made everyone leave... and Santa Monica experienced a citywide blackout... dinner was from a vending machine at the hotel... hoping for better luck this time)

Thursday, July 17th:

  • 10:00 EA Showcase Booth, LACC (sports titles, Lord of the Rings, SimCity Creator, Crysis, C&C Red Alert)
  • 12:00 Sega, LACC (I really just want to see the new Total War game)
  • 12:30 Rock Band 2 meeting, LACC
  • 1:30 Fallout 3 meeting, LACC (my most anticipated game; great demo last year)
  • 2:00 Toshiba, LACC  (they are demoing a new gaming laptop)
  • 3:00 2K Games, LACC

What, no event for Thursday night? Catching a flight back on Friday...

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