August 1, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Why E3's shifting to a smaller playing field

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Geek fests are getting smaller, and organizers say that may be a good thing.

On Monday, the Entertainment Software Association announced that it's scaling back the Electronic Entertainment Expo, its signature trade show and the video game industry's largest event.

ESA execs said E3 is getting a major downsizing because it had gotten too big, with 60,000 attendees in May. When the conference was started 11 years ago, organizers thought it would be an ideal format for getting game makers as much attention as their Hollywood brethren. And, it was supposed to be a key venue for retailers to shmooze with game publishers.

But the game industry no longer needs that kind of hand-holding, said ESA president Douglas Lowenstein in an interview with CNET News.com. In fact, Lowenstein said the conference was still profitable--if unwieldy.

Lowenstein said the new E3, which he expects will be called the "E3 Interactive Media Festival," will likely be an invite-only event in July 2007, and it probably will have less than 7,000 attendees. The idea, he said, is to give publishers an opportunity to interact directly with media outlets in small settings without all the hoopla.

"You'll be able to sit there and get a demonstration," Lowenstein said, "without having to worry about 30 people jostling you out of the way."

E3 is just the latest in a string of large technology trade shows that have either disappeared or have been significantly downsized. Internet World, once considered the monster conference for the Web, has moved overseas. Comdex, former host to the who's who in computing gear, is a total casualty. And Networld+Interop, the annual social-calendar highlight for the computer networking businesses, has been greatly reduced. Some observers wonder if techies have lost their appetite for big confabs, even as conferences for other industries pick up attendees.

"The only place we've seen a turndown has been in the technology industry," said Stephen Schuldenfrei, president of the Trade Show Exhibitors Association. "It's been modest (but) it's just not growing as much." Schuldenfrei added that ESA's decision on E3 "will put a dent in the (technology trade show industry's) statistics."

When small makes sense
But it's not time to put away the ergonomic backpack and comfortable shoes quite yet. While some big conferences have taken a hit in recent years, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has kept on growing. And smaller conferences, where companies don't feel obliged to shell out major dollars for eye-catching floor displays, appear to be picking up steam.

Echoing ESA's rationale, Schuldenfrei said smaller, in some cases, can be better.

"If I can get the president of EA (to sit down in a small meeting) with the president of the major retailers--the guys who are going to buy a huge amount of these products," Schuldenfrei said, "I don't need an 80-foot-by-80-foot exhibit to accomplish big things."

CONTINUED: The beginning of a trend?…
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9 comments

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I guess its for the best
I always loved seeing all the video and photo of the craziness on the showroom floor. I guess if this is better for the smaller publishers to show off their wares than it is for the best.
Posted by chuchucuhi (233 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Like COMDEX before . . .
E3's owners can spin it anyway they want, but it's dead. I agree
with the points made over at www.next-gen.biz about what's
gone on. It shows what's gone on in the industry, with game
sales down (how can their be an increase of 25% in game sales
with negative percentages in overall sales based on actual SKU/
UPC scans?) and people tired of either the "gaming is art" crowd
going nuts over Castlevania, anything by Capcom and SNK, and
Square Enix, and the collectors, and they who just want to kick
back and play a few rounds of something, but can't with every
game being a Second Life (pun intended). With the Big Dogs
leaving E3, I think the niche convention would suit just fine, or
perhaps all should return to CES, as in the old days.

Programmer #A-5 of www.totallyparanoia.com
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
As Activation, DRM and WGA rise, Tech falls
It is not a coincidence that mass enthusiasm for "tech" has waned in recent years. It is clear that the underlying steam engine of COMDEX et al was the PC--the OS-copiable/sofware piratable Windows PC.

Why did the unlocked PC play such a role in creating an artificially big tech market in the first place? Because, it may reasonably be suggested, the unlocked PC essentially subsidized the whole tech market, given that the tech market that mattered was the tech market predicated on the PC as the center of most such products.

With the PC's easily piratable software and copiable OS operating as a subsidy to users, an otherwise incidental "tech" market became a major market--because PC owners often skipped paying for software and the OS, and could spend their money on gadgets instead--and again not coincidentally often gadgets tied to the their software/OS subsidized PCs.

And then came first MS OS Product Activation and MS software Product Activation, and then came Activation for many other PC apps from other firms, and now comes Windows Genuine Advantage [really for Microsoft's sole Advantage]. And as these developments have come forward, tech has been ratcheted down a notch with each new DRM innovation.

MS meanwhile earns more bucks, as the profits of tech are shifted back to Microsoft by DRM. And MS suffers no ratchet-back in income as Windows is force-sold with each new PC anyway. It is no surprise contextually that MS is planning a big bundling effort re the next version of Office, since this is how MS will avoid the DRM-induced tech sales hit on Office as well. But other software makers will be left out in the new tech DRM deep-freeze caused by computer users now forced to pay for their OS copies, and having less to spend on other "tech".

It used to be that tech stories on the tech news sites on the web had huge number of people participating in discussions. That mass discussions are now more rare also indicates that consumers, now that they must pay the real cost of tech, are choosing to spend money elsewhere, and the market will soon shrink way down to where it would have been were it not for the unlocked PC.
Posted by PolarUpgrade (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Confused
Are you saying that stealing Windows was ok? I dont mind MS wanting the activation - they just want to make sure I paid for it. Nothing wrong with a company doing that.

And, there are other choices out there. You can always get a Mac, get Linspire, installed Ubuntu, etc.
Posted by dewalt25 (57 comments )
Link Flag
CNET Sucks
E3 was a waste of time. You can't hear what the
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.techknowcafe.com/content/view/603/43/" target="_newWindow">http://www.techknowcafe.com/content/view/603/43/</a>
marketing reps are trying to tell you, it's too crowded and nothing gets accomplished. I covered the E3 show 3 years ago and it's the worst trade show.
Posted by (156 comments )
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Dotso.com brought me here ...
Found this article through the tech section of Dotso.com - has proved a good read.
Posted by JoeCrow (83 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There was no "dot com" bust
There was simply a culling of crap startups with no tangible product behind their fake business plans.

Apparently the technology world collapsed because a bunch of kids who'd managed to swindle millions out of idiots on Wall Street finally got made.

The reason the stock market collapsed was because of idiots in the financial world ignored sound financial planning, and decided the rules of the stock market magically didn't apply any more.

Product? Who needs that, this kid has a hum-dinger of a website, complete with flashy doohickies and sparkly twirly things. Quick, buy him out for 10 million before his "company" replaces Microsoft or IBM.

The only thing that went wrong was that idiots on the TV told their sheep-like viewers to dump all their money into technology stocks - but not with established leaders such as Cisco, Sun, Oracle, Microsoft, Apple or IBM, oh no, it's far better to put all your retirement eggs into that flashy website business that doesn't appear to do much except count the number of visitors and tell everyone how great it will be when they've produced water that cures cancer and boots that'll fly people to the moon.

Did they manage to take down legitimate businesses with them - sure they did, because naturally once the cancer curing water and the fly-me-to-the-moon boots failed to materialise, naturally that meant all technology was bad, and even real businesses lost their investors who failed to understand that you actually require a product, preferably an operating system, that people will actually buy, if you want to surplant Microsoft.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
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