When we first started Axis, E3 was an institution, but over 12 years the event has grown and become more and more important to the games industry.
I remember attending it for the first time in 2000 when Axis was part of Scottish developer VIS entertainment. Off we set ready to meet the great and the good of the game industry, to win new clients, to impress people with our CG animation skills. What we came up against was bigger, louder and crazier than anything we had imagined and we failed miserably to reach the dizzy heights of networking we hoped for.
Undeterred, we kept going back and showing our face and getting our foot firmly into more doors. It was still tough, the show had tens of thousands of attendees a lot of them very busy and important people, and we were definitely a small fish in a very big pond.
One of the biggest highlights over those years though was when our trailer for Killzone on the PS3 before it launched. It caused a massive media storm ending up on the 10 O’clock News in the UK. It showed the power of E3, it was the world’s biggest stage for games and how they were marketed.
Suddenly in the summer of 2006 it was announced E3 was downsizing, possibly even cancelled! It was invite only, industry focused and it was then that we started to look at other events and fell out of love with E3.
From there we went to GDC, Develop, Gamescom, Siggraph and E3 started to have less relevance in our lives. Other shows were starting to compete for the marketing lead that E3 used to have and this was affecting our business. Instead of the crazy E3 rush for trailers and promotional materials this was being spread across the year at the likes of Leipzig, Tokyo Game Show and Comic Con.
Then in 2009, whilst we were working on the trailers for Brink and Rogue Warrior, both to be shown as part of new marketing campaigns, we were chatting with a client in the US. It was June and one of them said to me; ‘what the hell are doing in Glasgow, E3 is going to be huge this year, it’s back and it’s going to be massive.’
He was right. Some big games launched at E3 2009 and some amazing budgets were being spent on marketing and trailers. Fantastic, breathtaking content was produced for games such as Assassin’s Creed 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
So E3 is back and so are we, off to LA at the start of June with all the same excitement and goals to blow people away that we had back in 2000. Nothing much has changed we still want to get face to face with people, build relationships, get exposure, meet old friends and make some new ones.
That is what E3 can offer, the ability to have a lot of the key industry players in one city for a few days. And for a UK based company like us it offers the opportunity to meet with the best from all over the world.
Things have changed a lot for us since 2000, but you still have to work as hard at making E3 work for you. In 2000 we expected to be able to just walk around the stands and meet the right people but it doesn’t work like that at all.
You need to plan heavily in advance of E3, who you want to meet and why you want to meet them. I have spent some time working out who are the new clients I’d like to get to know, and balancing that against those who are the past and current clients I know are going to be there – because they are just as important to meet with.
From here some research is required trying to use everything at your disposal to track down the right people before the show or even better get an introduction to them from someone you both know and trust. You can always expect some rejection and some ‘maybe’s’ but if you do your research correctly and you have the right offering most people should at least want to meet with you.
Outside of the planned meetings there is of course the spontaneous moments that sometimes can deliver even more in the way of relationship building. Recently for example I was standing at a bar chatting with someone from a motion capture studio. To my right were two guys I’d never met in my life before and five minutes later the Creative Director from a major developer who we have worked with many times walks in and says ‘Hey four of my favourite people all in the same place’.
Introductions were made and suddenly the potential of an interesting and exciting US client was opened up to me. This is the stuff that you can’t plan but you can only get at something like E3.
For a company like Axis who works with Publishers, Developers and Brand and Marketing teams, E3 is the perfect opportunity. It’s the perfect place to meet a blend of all of these potential clients and showcase our skills in both creating killer trailers and promotional materials but also in our ability to tell stories and supply technical solutions that see us creating cutscenes and content for developers.
E3 also offers the chance to develop and keep up our growth in the US market. Breaking into this market from the UK is always a challenge and the two things we find combine beautifully as a solution are create fantastic work and get face to face with people. One of the fantastic things about the games industry in general but especially in the US is that people appreciate your efforts to visit them, to listen to what they are doing and what their challenges may be.
So what can we expect to see once we jump back across the Atlantic when E3 wraps up? Well if the show continues to deliver the way it used to before 2006 and has done in the last year or so I think I can expect to have raised our profile and met some interesting people that we can begin to build relationships with during the rest of 2010. I am pretty sure it will also deliver some hangovers and sun burn, we are based in Glasgow after all!