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The Entertainment Software Association made some waves today when they announced that, for the first time in E3 history, the annual trade show will be open to the public. Some see this as a big boon for average gamers while many who work in the industry are expressing concern. After attending the show for nearly a decade, I can see several benefits to opening the show up, as well as a handful of issues that could make E3 a nightmare to cover.
There's quite a bit of time between now and the mid-June showing of E3 2017. So while today's news was pretty surprising, I'm hopeful that both the ESA and exhibitors will be able to iron out any wrinkles that may arise due to the shifting landscape. Without much information to go on outside of the fact that the public will be able to attend this year's show, however, I've got a few concerns that I hope to see addressed in the next four months.
It's Still a Trade Show, Right?
Based on what we've heard from the ESA, it doesn't sound like E3 is changing its focus so much as simply opening the doors to a bunch of paying customers. My concern is that those folks might not know what, exactly, they're getting into. If they're expecting this to be like a standard convention, it's likely they're going to be pretty upset once they realize that, without an appointment, you'll likely be spending the vast majority of your time standing in line, waiting to play just a few games a day.
According to the announcement, the press conferences and one-on-one meetings will still be focused on the media, but there are still quite a few people in the industry who don't operate on the standard "by appointment" schedule. For folks who rely on walking the show floor and doing their coverage on the spot, an influx of bodies might make their job a heck of a lot harder to actually pull off. And for folks who are unable or choose not to set up meetings, my concern is that there will be no way to actually get hands-on time with the games thanks to what will almost certainly be much longer lines.
I saw this mentioned earlier today and cannot, for the life of me, track down the source, so apologies to whomever I'm semi-quoting from social media here. The basic argument was this: Video game conventions are great, which is why so many of them have started to pop up on an annual basis. However, for folks who are working in the industry, sometimes you need a big gathering like this to, you know, get some work done. If opening up the show to the public is going to hamper that, then it seems like folks who are there to do a job might be in for a rough ride.
Traffic Flow Issues
I've yet to go to an E3 where traffic flow was not an issue, and I'm referring to the movement of bodies inside the Los Angeles Convention Center more so than the cluttered streets outside. The streets aren't great either.
Each day begins with an ocean of folks trying to cram their way into a limited set of doors while ID badges are checked. If you've got an appointment on the floor anywhere near the time that those doors open, then you're in for an insane amount of panicking as you wonder how long, exactly, it will take you to get to your destination.
And once the show is in full swing, the lanes between exhibitor booths are already choked with people. If you add the additional line space that will likely be needed this year, we're talking about a tough labyrinth to navigate in order to get from appointment to appointment.
The most obvious fix would be to have separate entrances for the public and the folks working in the industry, thus allowing folks to make their appointments in a more timely fashion. They might even want to open up different lanes of traffic between the South and West hall that, again, would help folks get from Point A to Point B more easily.
I kind of feel the need to stress that I'm not trying to be exclusive here. But again, this is a trade show where many people are heading to do a job.
If you've ever been to a convention, then you know that accommodations can be a tricky needle to thread. Between hotel stays and travel, there's a lot to figure out when it comes to living in a different city for about a week.
My real issue with accommodations is that hotel space is already expensive and limited anywhere near the LA Convention Center, and it fills up fast once people get approved for attendance. I don't know if you've noticed this, but E3 tickets for the public go on sale next week and, as of today, there's no word on when press registration will take place. Since I never know what might happen with registration, I never book my travel and motel until I know I've been approved to actually attend the show, and that sometimes takes weeks following the registration process. So while folks who either plan to exhibit or cover the show are still waiting to find out if they'll be making a trip to Los Angeles this June, folks who can buy tickets will be ready to roll in just a few short days.
I'm not all doom and gloom when it comes to E3 opening up to the public. I genuinely hope I'm worrying over nothing and that none of these issues will actually be a concern once the big show finally arrives, but I also can't pretend I'm not anxious.
However, while E3 still hasn't lost its charm on me, I've noticed that, over the years, the atmosphere has been on something of a downward spiral. Some publishers have backed out of showroom floor appearances in recent years, Nintendo abandoned just about everything but Zelda last year and, yes, some folks have just become jaded by the whole affair.
If someone is paying to attend E3, then you know for a fact that they are really, really excited to be a part heading to the show, not just attending because it's part of their job or something they "put up with" to get to see old friends or industry acquaintances on an annual basis.
Hopefully the paying crowd will bring a fresh energy to the show and put a little extra pep in E3's step.
A Revamped Show
A lot of my earlier concerns for opening E3 up to the public hinge on what I've experienced attending on an annual basis. What they don't take into account, however, are how things might change in the next several months.
For instance, while E3 is a massive event, there's still quite a bit of room in those halls that go unused. If exhibitors are given a bit more space between booths, traffic flow, room for lines and the like might not even be an issue. Heck, if booths are a bit bigger this year, exhibitors might even be able to put on a bigger show themselves, allowing more folks to come and go more quickly.
Also, what if the press stuff is funneled into a different area? Many press meetings already occur away from the showroom floor and, if given a bit more space to set up those kinds of offerings, getting in and out and around the show floor might no longer be an issue for those worried about making their appointments in time.
There's no telling what, if anything will change to accommodate the added public presence this year, but I'm hopeful some creative thinking will be applied in order to make it "business as usual" for folks looking to work, and a heck of a lot of fun for those who are just there to enjoy a week of gaming goodness.