Even though it's supposedly an industry-only trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is an event of epic proportions for video game aficionados, as evidenced by the legions of fans who follow the show's daily announcements online, through blogs, news outlets, and (a more recent development) video feeds.
But despite its decade-plus place in the public consciousness (I've been attending since 1999), the E3 show has been to the brink of extinction more than once, and while it has pulled off a remarkable recovery over the past couple of years, there's still a chance history may repeat itself.
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In brief, what happened was the trade show equivalent of a boom and bust cycle. Throughout the 2000s, game companies competed to outdo each other, with excessive budgets and outlandish displays, creating literal mini cities inside the Los Angeles Convention Center that easily trumped anything seen at the larger Consumer Electronics Show, which takes place in Las Vegas every January.
The trend peaked in 2006, after which the participants collectively realized that entirely too much money was being spent on the show, which had long since stopped being a place for retail buyers to make deals with publishers, and had become essentially a weeklong press conference. Simply put, the week's worth of media hits was judged to be simply not worth the investment.
At the time, the Entertainment Software Association, a trade organization that runs the event, agreed to retrench, scaling down the 2007 version into what then-Entertainment Software Association President Douglas Lowenstein called a "more personal, efficient, and focused" show. E3 went from 60,000 attendees the previous year to about 4,000, and from 400 exhibiting companies to fewer than 40. E3 2008 was a similarly small affair, returning to the Los Angeles Convention Center, but keeping the small, low-cost format.… Read more