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The Life and Death of E for All (Part 3) December 10, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Histories, The Life and Death of E For All.
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After it was over, the press was not kind to E for All that first year.  Some were still bitter from the PAX fiasco, but the negativity was not without merit.  E for All was NOT what people were expecting.  When the organizers made promises like, “It’s E3, but the public can get in too!” the public was disappointed they discovered that was not what they got.  The 2007 show was far too barren to rival what E3 was in its prime.  While what was shown got plenty of positive press, especially the Metal Gear Solid 4 and Super Smash Bros Brawl showings, E for All got a major negative mark across the board from all the attendees, including myself, who had been former E3 attendees.  We knew it could’ve been a much better show.

What was really telling was that many of the developers who attended the first year, specifically Nintendo, announced no plans to appear in the next one.  Many felt that Nintendo was the unquestionable ruler of the first E4 and if they weren’t going to be showing for 2008’s show it must’ve been becuase they didn’t feel it was worth it.  Penn and Teller did tape an episode of their show there however.  I feel bad I missed out on the opportunity to be on Showtime, I’ve already been on HBO (but that’s a different story which has nothing to do with gaming).

In 2008 things were not looking good for the ESA.  The smaller E3s were just not getting the attention the older ones used to.  Gamers were disappointed by the downsizing that was taking place.  The disappointment of 2008’s E3 seemed like a cry to bring it back.  Many of the attendees to the smaller E3 show lamented the fact all these booths and all the empty halls were begging to be filled once again with games.

ESA was also losing membership and funding because of the cancellation of the show.  Game developers were dropping their memberships left and right.  Because E3 was their major revenue stream for the year, the ESA had to raise their rates in order for developers to keep membership, and without E3 as a reason to be a member, many just didn’t care to spend the extra money to remain in the organization.

There was only one logical solution, and that was to bring E3 back for 2009, and that was the decision the ESA made.  E3 would return to its full glory as everyone remembered it.  With E3 back, E4 was history, and not too many were upset over the loss.  E3’s triumphant return would mark one of the best gaming years of this generation, and their tradition continues to this day.  E4 will likely just be considered a footnote, a dark time of the history of trade shows.

But for all their faults, E4 did have the right idea in mind.  Besides security concerns, why doesn’t E3 allow the public into the show?  Almost all of their rival trade shows offer at least one day of public consumption.  Heck, PAX was created to give the public the chance to see these games early, and their security is more than adequate to handle the people.  Sure the occasional person acts up, but they are promptly arrested without much ruckus being caused.

Open your show to the public E3, it’s for your own good.  You don’t want another imitator to go for your crown again do you?

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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.

The Life and Death of E for All (Part 1) December 8, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Histories, The Life and Death of E For All.
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The year was 2006 and the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the biggest gaming trade show in the world, was starting to get a little long in the tooth.  Formerly an essential trade show where companies could court retailers on what products would be coming out in the next year, by 2006 the show had become a media circus full of loud noises, giant screens, and scantily clad women.  Oh boy, was it heaven on earth.

The suits were starting to complain.  It was becoming harder and harder for the corporate end of gaming to operate.  The backroom deals that were essential for game promotion and sales were taking a backseat to the media circus on the outside.  They didn’t like it was getting harder to navigate through the show floor to go from one scheduled meeting to another.

The gamers were starting to complain.  What was originally a venue for game developers to announce major news, show new footage, and premiere new games was getting wrapped up in its own hype machine.  While these things were still being done, in order to stand out in the organized chaos and attract attention to their games, the developers and publishers would compete at things like who could have the loudest music, the biggest screen, and the prettiest supermodels to attract publicity and get press to cover their game, instead of the merits of how good the game played.  What used to be a show of substance had become a show of hype and little else.  What’s more, new trailers barely had actual gameplay footage in them and playable demos of games would rarely be provided unless the game was very close to release.

The ESA, who ran E3, decided enough was enough and it was time for a change.  They discontinued the E3 as we had known it, instead deciding to shift to a smaller more manageable show and E3 as we knew it was gone.  A power vacuum formed among the game trade show organizations.  E3 was the unquestionable king of trade shows, and with it gone, another show, either new or currently existing, would have to take the crown as the new leader.  TGS, PAX, GAME and GDC were ready to ramp up their shows, and the developers were happy to increase their spending in those shows to make up for E3’s loss.

But a new trade show was ready to step in, planning to take E3’s crown for themselves by being everything E3 was and more.  They were going to be in the exact same place as E3 was, the Los Angeles Convention Center, and they promised their game developers would be there, ready to show their games to the gamers.  The improvement they would have with their show was that unlike E3, they promised to open their show to the public.  Their name, after being picked in an internet contest, would fittingly be E for All (E4), and they were ready to step in for their first show, which would be in October 2007.

Little did the attendees know that what they were anticipating would end up being a massive disappointment.