Trade holds breath for E3’s ‘make or break’ year

E3 2009 has to strike the delicate balance between showbiz and circumspection to secure its future as the global industry’s central showcase.

After two years of publicly-acknowledged disappointment, the global publishing community has come together to demand a return to the ‘glamour’ of expos gone by.

Following comments from EA Sports’ Peter Moore, THQ’s Ian Curran and Sony’s Jack Tretton, Sega Of America boss Simon Jeffery told MCV:

E3 2009 needs to have life and soul. It needs to have a controlled level of noise and spectacle – but the control is very important. We can’t get back to the days of the E3 circus/carnival that got in the way of real business being done.”

Ubisoft executive director Alain Corre added: We want to impress and make people dream of our games. For that to happen, you need big lights, big music and a lot of attendees.”

And Eidos life president Ian Livingstone commented: It should just do what it is supposed to: Demonstrate and celebrate all that is happening and is going to happen in the ever-changing and exciting world of games.

In addition, it has to be a focal point for an international market – a convenient meeting place with lots of areas where people can meet without hassle, getting lost or eardrum-bursting noise. Oh, and it should bring back the booth babes…”

But those bankrolling the event know this re-evaluation as a glitzy spectacle comes with a hefty price-tag – and they will be keeping close tabs on the return on their investment.

The ESA has promised that this year’s Expo will be in marked contrast to the disappointing, dramatically scaled-back E3 2007 in Santa Monica – and last year’s lacklustre, eerily empty LA event. Yet it has also vowed to run the ‘best value trade
show in the world’.

The CEO of the Entertainment Software Association Mike Gallagher told MCV:

With today’s economic challenges, this is the best value event that European business will see all year. And it’s a departure from the previous two years, which were exclusively for the North American market.”

The body has welcomed worldwide media and retail to this year’s event with open arms, increasing floorspace and even removing the ban on the infamous ‘booth babes’.

However, to ensure E3’s continued support, the ESA must walk the tightrope of amplifying the excitement of the show, whilst avoiding the cash-swallowing excess of the 2005 and 2006 outings.

Over $120 million was sunk into each of those exhibitions, with many publishers suffering hefty losses – an implausible outcome for most in today’s recession-hit industry.

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