E3 goes big again in 2009

40,000 industry professionals to attend

E3 is going large again.

After two years in a severely downsized form that received largely negative reviews, the annual videogame confab will be bulked back up next year to include bigger booths, more companies and approximately 40,000 industry professionals in attendance.

Despite speculation that E3 would open its doors to the public, only industry pros and journalists will be allowed to attend.

Entertainment Software Assn., the trade group that runs E3, shrunk the show from 60,000-plus attendees in 2006 to fewer than 5,000 in 2007 and 2008 based on complaints that the old format had become too financially burdensome for exhibitors.

However, the smaller version got even worse feedback, particularly this past summer when it moved from a group of hotels in Santa Monica back to the confab’s traditional home at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where most attendees agreed it felt empty and lifeless.

“We have put on big shows in the past and small shows for the past two years, and we now have a smart size that will keep us focused on the energy, excitement and growth of the videogame industry today,” ESA topper Michael Gallagher told Daily Variety.

The ESA got several top industry execs to endorse the changes, including Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello, who previously said he “hated” this past summer’s event, and Ubisoft North America president Laurent Detoc, who had labeled it “terrible.”

Gallagher stressed that non-ESA members will be allowed to display at this year’s E3, a clear reference to several major publishers including Activision Blizzard and LucasArts that dropped out of the org earlier this year.

E3 2009 will be held June 2-4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.