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The Life and Death of E for All (Part 2) December 9, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Histories, The Life and Death of E For All.
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Before E for All let a single gamer enter the LA Convention Center it had already found itself in the middle of a controversy.  The yearly Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) was taking place in Seattle, WA some time before the inaugural E4.  PAX was (at the time) the biggest gaming expo open to the public and had been established for many years.  To solicit the same gamers, or perhaps looking to capture some of PAX’s magic, some E4 promotional people handed out trinkets and swag with the E for All logos on them outside of the convention center that PAX was being held.  They were doing this without permission by PAX’s organizers, and many deemed it was in fact illegal.  The gamers they solicited were so mad at what the promotional teams were doing, they defaced a lot of the E for All merchandise and threw a lot of it in the trash.  It ended up being a very negative start to an organization seeking for legitimacy in an already established hierarchy.

The first show was getting closer.  Badges would cost around $100 US for an early three-day pass.  They promised it would be exactly like E3, only open to the public.  E3 had previously filled the LA Convention Center halls to capacity and thensome, and the gamers who were not put off by the PAX debacle and wanted to finally experience the magic of E3 willingly put their money down to get in.

The first thing a gamer noticed when walking into the south hall for the first time was that it was empty, VERY empty.  Just one hall of the Convention Center was being used, and there were barely any booths to fill it.  To fill space, the organizers set up a food court and “Gamer’s Lounge” in the hall, but anyone who had previously attended an E3 could see just how much empty space there was.

Only one of the major console manufacturers, Nintendo, agreed to appear, as they had one huge lineup for the Christmas season coming to their hardware.  Super Smash Bros Brawl, the sequel to Melee, the biggest game on the GameCube, was in full force, and attracted a crowd big enough to fill a stadium seating rig.

Without Sony and Microsoft showing, it was up to the major publishers and smaller developers to fill up the hall space.

Intel and HP had booths set up but very little to actually show.  HP had Gears of War for PC and Unreal Tournament III on hand to play, but Gears of War launched on the 360 the year prior and with a 360 controller played identical on PC, and Unreal Tournament III already had a demo out by the time of the show.  Intel had a race car simulator on hand, and was green screening dancers in exchange for free 1GB USB drives.  This was my video.

Smaller developers like Telltale Games, who were showing off the second season of Sam and Max, got some press, and there were PLENTY of samples of Five Hour Energy being passed around.

Other than Nintendo, if there were reasons to attend E4, Guitar Hero III was one of them.  Entire stages were set up with stadium seating just to have Guitar Hero II competitions.  The winners (chosen by independent judges) would get demo units for Guitar Hero III with early wired Les Paul controllers.  Demo kiosks were set up for the game along the back, giving attendees the first chance to rock on songs like “Even Flow” and “The Metal”.

But EA would be there to compete with Guitar Hero.  The line to demo the first Rock Band wrapped around the big rig trailer brought in to play it on.  All positions were available, guitar, bass, and for the first time, drums and vocals.  An attendee’s whole day could be spent just waiting to play it.

But let’s not forget the unquestionable reason for the first E4, Konami’s first playable demo of Metal Gear Solid 4 was at their booth on the show floor.  Konami’s developers were on hand to brief the attendees on the new SIXAXIS control scheme, and answer questions while gamers played.  I had been waiting for MGS4 for years at this point, and had already bought a PS3 just to play it.  Ryan Payton himself answered some of my questions as he kicked us out of the demo so the next group could play.

After three days, the first year of E4 was over, and it would return to the same place in the following year.

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