Annual E3 showcase will slim down

E3, as the videogame industry knows it, is no more.

In a surprising move, the Entertainment Software Assn. announced Monday that next year’s E3, the annual vidgame industry confab that brings console makers, publishers, retail buyers and the press together for a glitzy event at the Los Angeles Convention Center, will be a significantly smaller affair.

“The sense that we need a tentpole event that everybody would rally around in order to get the press to pay attention to the industry has really evaporated over the years,” ESA prexy Doug Lowenstein told Daily Variety. “What’s important to our members now is that they get quality meeting time, which means that having massive amounts of space with people who are not as central to the show’s success is no longer efficient.”

In other words, no more convention halls full of giant screens, blaring speakers and scantily clad “booth babes.”

Already, top level industryites spend most of E3 in closed-door meetings away from the raucous show floor. The new E3 will apparently serve primarily to facilitate such contacts.

“With movie related tradeshows, we have ShoWest, NATPE, Cannes, ProMax, etc. and not one major worldwide event,” noted Paramount VP of interactive licensing Sandi Isaacs. “The games business will follow this trend.  Videogames have grown-up, and with maturity comes change.”

The slimmed-down E3 will still take place in L.A., but will move from its traditional May date to July.

Lowenstein said he anticipates companies will still hold press conferences around the confab to show off their latest consoles and titles.

Shift apparently came due to pressure from videogame companies who have become reluctant to spend the millions necessary for a major E3 booth in order to demonstrate their relevance.

“When the show began 12 years ago, it was a great opportunity to meet with buyers, media and partners,” an EA spokesperson told videogame website IGN. “Over time though, the timing has become disruptive to the studios and the costs have become expensive.”

Because the most popular videogames typically come out in the fall for holiday sales, many are still in development and either can’t be shown, or don’t yet look their best, in May.

While the confab was originally designed as a worldwide all-industry trade show, other events have become increasingly important in recent years such as the Tokyo Game Show, the Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany, and the Game Developers Conference held each year in San Jose.

In addition, vidgame companies are increasingly organizing their own events for the press and retail buyers.

The traditional E3 did serve some useful purposes, however. It is typically the focal point each year for consumer press coverage of the videogame industry.

In addition, movie and TV industry executives and talent can often be found walking the show floor, seeking to learn more about vidgames.

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