E3 is over for another year, and once again many game executives are coming away dissatisfied with the experience.
After a peak attendance of roughly 70,000 in 2005 and 60,000 in 2006, the ESA reorganized the show to a tightly-controlled press-only event in 2007, reducing the number of attendees to less than 5000 and moving the show out of the Los Angeles Convention Center to smaller locations in Santa Monica. While the changes were made in response to complaints from exhibitors about the high cost of the show, response to the changes in 2007 was almost entirely negative, and based on a San Francisco Chronicle report, 2008 isn't much better.
"I hate E3 like this," said Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello. "Either we need to back to the old E3, or we'll have to have our own private events." His sentiment was echoed by Ubisoft North America President Laurent Detoc, who said, "E3 this year is terrible. The world used to come to E3. Now it's like a pipe-fitters show in the basement."
While nobody expects a return to the E3 excesses of old, a shift to a louder, flashier, more open format may very well be in the cards. Simon Jeffery, president of Sega of America, said E3 needs some flash to attract the retail sector, which turned its back on the event following the restructuring. The show's mid-July timing has also come under fire for placing it in the middle of the industry's traditional down-time, and its proximity to the strong fall sales season meant many companies were unable to wait for E3 before making big game announcements.
ESA President Michael Gallagher indicated the show will likely grow next year, although he wouldn't speculate as to how much, saying only that the ESA will continue to tweak the show to meet the demands of exhibitors. "We just need to decide where the dial needs to go," he said.