After being part of the rise and fall of E3 as a monolith of videogaming goodness, I was interested to see what the response would be to the downsizing and move to "exclusivity" that seemed to be happening in the industry. E3 (the Electronics Entertainment Expo) had gone from a 60,000 attendee convention held in the Los Angeles Convention Center to being the E3 Media and Business Summit, an invitation-only event in Santa Monica attended by around 5,000 individuals. The intent was to turn it into a more "business focused" event. No need for booth babes or rock concerts. It was all about the showing, buying, and selling of games. This is not the showing, buying, and selling of videogames for the general consumer-it's the behind-closed-doors selling of games to large corporations who decide which games are going to be ones you get to choose from when they hit the stores.
When E for All was announced, I was extremely excited. Here was a nascent convention with a general audience focus on the common gamer, the people whose actual hard earned money fuels the industry. It gave me hope that there were still people on the business side of the industry who felt that it was important to have an event which welcomed the "unwashed masses." Granted, the machine that is capitalism will still be the decisive factor in what we play at home, but I appreciate the illusion that the end-consumer matters.
Basically what has happened is that there are now two smaller, more specialized conventions in this part of the world for the videogaming industry. The IDC estimates that there were about 18,000 attendees (including exhibitors) at E for All, which they took to be a positive showing. They looked at this event as a "celebration for the entire game community." To give you an idea of the size, E3 used to take up four Halls in the L.A. Convention Center, whereas E for All was almost wholly contained in the South Hall (with space to spare). Nintendo was the only one of the big three to attend and the presence of retailers such as Target were much more noticeable. Because the convention was limited to one hall, there was a mixing of large publishers with small, retailer booths rubbed shoulders with demonstrations of new gaming technology, and art had a uneasy truce with commerce (literally, as the "Into the Pixel" art exhibit was located right in the middle of the show, but was roped off for safety).
I was able to talk to public relations staff from both Namco and Nintendo to find out why they had decided to come to an event that some of the other companies had shunned. Both were quick to point out that they loved games, were excited to be able to show their products to the public, and felt that it was important for their games to get as much previewing as possible in fun and exciting environments. The user-focused emphasis was evident, and I could tell from the set-ups of their booths that this paradigm governs everything from their game design and acquisition to their marketing and business models.
Even though this was a scaled down event from what I might have been hoping for, I must say I enjoyed myself. Next year's E for All is already scheduled, though in perhaps an unfortunate turn of events it seems to conflict with Penny Arcade's Expo (PAX) in Seattle, Washington. Since PAX is also a more gamer-centric event, it is my hope that this sort of overlap doesn't happen in future years. We shall have to wait and see how E for All grows and changes in the same way we monitor how economic changes affect the whole of the gaming industry. But I would say that even if E for All was not the powerhouse that the old E3 was, it's first year was very promising.