The E for All Expo hits the Los Angeles Convention Center. Was it worth the trip? Will the show become the successor to the near dead E3 Expo? Is it true that certain companies didn't want E for All to succeed? And what about all those crazy rumors surrounding the future of both events? Lets find out the truth from a 10 year veteran of the E3 Expo.
The Death of the E3 Expo
When I first heard that the E3 Expo was going to be downsized I had mixed feelings on the subject. On one hand I liked the idea of smaller crowds and more face time with the developers.
On the other hand I missed the gigantic carnival atmosphere of the old mega show. I also feared that the new E3 would fail at its primary objective. Which was to generate hype amongst the consumers.
Sure enough as the new E3 arrived in the middle of July, a time when most people are away from their homes, the show was ignored by many. And while the mainstream media praised the new format I saw it for what is truly was; A failure.
When the Original E3 Expo folded, the Organizers of the show were forced to violate a 10 year, multi-million dollar lease on the LA Convention center. It literally cost them millions when they killed the old show. And as I watched E3 2007 flounder I came to an important realization...
This may come as a shock but E3 was never about the media. It was never about the developers. E3 had one primary goal; to get people excited about upcoming products. Who gives a damn if “Johnny Hack” from 1up.com gets more face time with Developer X. In my opinion, E3 wasn’t about selling your game to the Press. Their opinions are for sale anyway.
To me E3 was made for the masses. Anyone who went one of the prior events can tell you that most of the people attending didn’t belong on the show floor. However it was those same people that would become living hype machines. Their enthusiasm would spread to their friends, their families, to fan pages, to myspace and its clones, and to every video game message board on the planet. This was the primary reason why it was so easy to get into the old show.
That’s why when I heard about the E for All Expo I decided I would attend no matter how bad I thought it was going to be. I had to give the show a chance.
E for All – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
First the good news. The show was attended by an estimated 18,000 gamers. And surprisingly, most of these people were civil and friendly. In fact I thought the atmosphere of the show was more positive and the attendees were better behaved than any E3 of the past. I guess “John Public” has better manners than most people in the mainstream press.
Nintendo was the biggest draw of the show. Their booth was the largest on the show floor and it was the center of the event. It was stocked with some of the most important titles on the Wii. And although they could have used a few more demo kiosks, lines were relatively tolerable.
Nintendo also gave out some cool freebies. Including 4 different t-shirts (one for each day) and a Wii-mote keychain flashlight.
The Nintendo DS area of the booth was well stocked with great games. Unfortunately a few of them were old. Still, some remarkable new titles were on display and the future of the DS has never looked brighter. Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword was outstanding IMO. Tecmo even gave out a cool NGDS stylus.
Mario Party DS, Call of Duty 4, Dragon Quest Monster Joker, Final Fantasy XII: RW, and Contra 4 were also on display.
The only disappointment was the absence of the new Professor Layton game. Nintendo had claimed the title would be at the show but unfortunately it was MIA.
Arguably the second biggest draw of the show was the Konami Booth. Caged Fans waited in line for hours behind simulated barbed wire just to play the MGS4 demo. And although the game looks good, and the 3d camera really adds to the experience, at heart it is the same game I have been playing since the original. The formula has not changed, but some might say that is for the better.
I did resent having too look at an old man’s ass crack entirety of the demo. If you’ve seen pics of MGS4 I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Isn’t it bad enough that the name “solid snake” is merely another way of saying “erect penis?” (Think I’m wrong? Go play Zone of the Enders, another unusual Kojima Production.)
I will say this, Hideo Kojima makes some unusual choices with this series. (Otacon and his step mom, Raiden, bizarre nonsensical story lines, etc..) And even though I joke about Kojima's artistic choices, I expect to love this game, just as I feel it will receive almost universal critical praise.
Konami was also kind enough to hold a number of different autograph sessions with various game developers. Producer of the CV series, Koji Igarashi (IGA) was there along with his legendary trade mark hat. He posed photos with the fans. And he even brought a whip that gamers could hold when the took their photos. (He’s a great guy who really appreciates his loyal fan base.)
Shingo Makaitouge, producer of Elebits
and Dewey’s Adventure was in attendance as well. During his signing Konami
gave out stuffed versions of Dewey. A nice bonus for any fan.
Konami also had a great store in their booth. Gamers could purchase t-shirts, graphic novels, official soundtracks, and even games. Honestly I thought having a store was an excellent idea. Other companies should have followed their lead.
Elsewhere on the floor, Namco also had a great store with everything from T-Shirts, Keychains, Belt Buckles, Plush Toys, Action Figures and Pac-Man lolipops.
Namco's game selection was focused on their thriving cellphone market. Retro-Gaming is big money maker for those involed in the cell phone gaming market. Namco's display showed a strong commitment to this promising new frontier.Electronic Arts:
EA was also in attendance with a number of titles. Two of which really stood out from the pack. The first was Medal of Honor 2 Heroes for the Wii. The second was Rock Band, which is sure to delight any fan of the music game genre. Speaking of Rock Band show attendees were given the chance to play the game on two different stages. It was a lot of fun and it was also a big spectacle. Still this game did not detract from the popularity of Guitar Hero III. Which had a number of demo kiosks that were always surrounded by fans.
THQ was nice enough to hold a signing featuring Wrestling Legend Jerry the King Lawler along with Jim Ross, arguably the greatest announcer in the history of the sport. They also gave out some cool freebies including a statue of Conan. I guess I can forgive them for having that horrible wii demo of MX vs ATV.
Strangely enough I observed former Sega Legend Yuji Naka walking the show floor with a pass he bought himself! Not an exhibitor pass mind you, just a regular old general admission pass. Honestly, although the siting was a bit strange, I've always respected Naka and his support of the fan community. His appearance at the show is just another example of how dedicated this man is to his work and to video game culture.
Overall I was satisfied with the show. I got to play many great new games. I also got my hands on Smash Bros and MGS4 months before their intended release. I scored some great pictures and some neat autographs. I walked away with a dozen t-shits and some cool swag. (Even though I had initially promised myself that I would not collect any tchotchkies.)
I made several new friends, I chatted with the booth babes, and I got wired on 5 hour energy drink every single day. What else do you want from a game show?
Unfortunately the expo did have a few downsides. The first being that many of the games on display were either old, or were set to be released in the next couple of weeks. (with a few notable exceptions)
Second the price was far too high. While some argued that the high price was intended to keep out the riff-raff, it was still too expensive IMO. Especially when you add in travel costs, parking and food.
There was also a black out at around 7:00 pm on Friday. You can watch video of the black out on YouTube. BTW, be sure to check out our "E for All - Our Favorite YouTube Videos" feature by clicking this link.
So what will the future bring for the E for All Expo? Even though it was rumored that certain companies (MS and Sony) didn’t want this show to succeed, I’m sure it will given time. If the show grows in popularity they will eventually be forced to attend. (Remember Nintendo wasn’t at the first E3.)
Now why did these companies want E for All to fail? I can’t say for certain. But I have a hunch it has to do with image control. You can’t control public opinion. Sony didn’t like how they were treated during E3 06. (Basically they were humiliated by the press and the attendees.)
It was rumored that Sony was instrumental in bringing about the new, smaller, format of E3 2007. And while I watched the pathetic coverage of that event I soon realized that certain media outlets had decided that Sony had “won” the show even before it was held. This only further deepens my suspicions about their involvement in the demise of the old E3 format and their opposition of E for All.
Despite these obstacles I have strong reason to believe that the show will return in one form or another. It may even be combined with E3, according to one show Insider. It could very well become a half press, half public event. With the press having exclusive access for the first couple of days, and the rest of the event being open to the public. The show is also expected to double in size by the next event.
Overall I’m glad I went. Here’s hoping things will get better with each passing year.