The End of E3 as We Know It? (Updated)

On Friday, UK publication MCV reported that the future of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the game industry's biggest annual trade event, is under discussion by the Entertainment Software Association and major publishers. According to unnamed insiders, many publishers feel that the event has gotten far too big and unwieldy, not to mention costly. "Costs have been getting out of hand. We're talking double digit millions for some of us," said an MCV source. "But that's not just floorspace, of course - it's build, parties, hotels, flights. Security, particularly, has become a massive cost."

Today, the plot thickened, as both Next Generation and GameSpot are reporting that the event will no longer exist at all in its current form. Next Generation, currently running the headline "EXCLUSIVE: E3 FINISHED," claims that the ESA's Doug Lowenstein will announce within 48 hours that E3 has been cancelled for 2007 and beyond. "The days of an industry event attended by all the major publishers, spending big money, are gone," reads the article. GameSpot reports that there may be a smaller industry event around the same time as E3, though it will not be held in E3's traditional home base, the Los Angeles Convention Center. Such an event would support hundreds rather than thousands of attendees, and would be a more subdued preview event rather than a full-blown three-day industry party. GameSpot claims that the ESA will make its announcement tomorrow.

Many publishers have been heading in this direction for years now, with the largest online gaming news outlets publishing most of their E3 previews a week before E3, following smaller pre-E3 events held by publishers to ensure games are presented in ideal conditions. Such practices are also common to ensure print publications's longer lead times are less of a factor in publishing timely E3 coverage.

Update: Ars Technica has joined in the fray, stating that according to its own sources, E3 will still exist, but in much smaller form. Apparently, the ESA would like to get the show back to the smaller, more subdued gathering that E3 originally represented. Ironically E3 was first organized to avoid the bloated and costly trade shows that the games industry previously attended.

As far as which report is correct, we'll just have to wait and see. One thing on which everybody seems to agree is that the ESA will make an announcement tomorrow.

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