Monday, July 31, 2006

Is E3 going away?

OK, so the details aren't entirely clear yet, but this weekend set the rumor mill on fire with all sorts of speculation as to what this means: Article. Another Article. (and there are more and more out there).

I worked in the games industry for the past 8 years or so. Each year, in early spring, talk turned to E3 and finalizing (or starting) our plans for what to show that year. E3 was a HUGE part of the development cycle...not only in the fact that we usually had to jump through a lot of hoops to get the game into a showable state for E3 (usually trying to get something that looked and played near ship quality at ~6 months prior to ship), but also in that it was generally the first public push of the game...the first time we gave away any info about the game.

E3 has come to be a great source of information as to what titles will be coming out in the near future. It's a wealth of information as to what you can expect for the coming holiday season.

But, I must admit that in recent years, the news and information coming out of E3 has been less and less exciting. While the show still packs a punch by having most of the major publishers and developers showing off something, it seems like it has been less intriguing. Yes, there are some major announcements that usually come out at E3 and those who were there can say "I heard it first." But the Internet is often abuzz with the information days or weeks (if not months) before E3 and in the end, it seems like we're all just waiting on E3 to give us the "official" confirmation of things we already know (or think we know).

The chance to get hands on with new consoles and games months (or years) before release can really be a buzz, but it seems like the hype and the big ticket items have been shrinking in presence. The Wii had a good showing at this past E3, but because it was THE major thing to see, the lines were such that E3-goers had to make a choice...Would I like to see the Wii and thereby miss everything else because I have to stand in line the whole time, or would I rather miss the Wii and see all of the other mediocre stuff out there. Somewhat an exageration, but only slightly...from what I hear, getting hands on the Wii controller and playing the demos was a lot of fun, but the line was truly insane.

The way I see it, E3 definitely needs an overhaul. I suspect that many titles see E3 as a sort of curse rather than a blessing...Even if developers have planned for E3, they still have to divert time and resources to getting the E3 demo ready to go. This can also often include sending a couple of people to demo the demo...those who get to work the show will come from one of two pools...either someone close to the project with vision and experience with the game (in which case, the game can suffer by missing out on those folks for a week) or someone who has little to know experience with the title (thus not hurting the team by pulling them away, but providing a less than insightful resource to answer questions at the show).

In addition to potentially mediocre demos and/or presenters, there is just too much junk getting pushed out there such that it's a pain to filter through the hundreds of booths to find the one or two stellar showings. We need more good content getting out there, more devs and publishers leaning on E3 as the hype-house that it should be, and better organization of the event as a whole.

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