After a long and arduous day at E3, my colleagues and I were sitting down for a well-deserved hearty meal at a lovely restaurant called the Stinking Rose. It was Thursday night, the show was wrapping up, and for all of us, day one of the show felt like it had been six weeks earlier. But as we sat around and munched on garlic bread, we found that we had little to talk about. And it wasn't just because at least two of us were close to passing out from exhaustion and hunger. Rather, it was because E3 2006 had overwhelmed us, yet at the same time left us with so few impressions of anything.
Actually, that was the topic that got us talking. We had seen and heard so much, but most of it was of little consequence. Even when we caught some big fish in the vast sea of people at the Los Angeles Convention Centre, it somehow didn't feel worth the grind. It was my co-worker, Humphrey Cheung of TG Daily, who threw out the big question: is E3 becoming the Comdex of the video game industry?
It's a question that's been asked before, to be sure. For at least a couple of years now, people have been debating whether the biggest video game show in the world is becoming too big for its own good. But it's worth revisiting the topic this year, because of the hardships many game companies have experienced as the cost of games has gone up while sales have slumped.
Microsoft's booth at E3 2006
A number of gaming industry folks whom I spoke with before E3 told me that they either weren't going, or were only reluctantly showing up for just one or two days. For them, the show had become too much of a sprawling frenzy that prohibited them from getting any real work done. In short, the event had become an obligation and a burden.
For members of the media, E3 isn't really a big news generator. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft all delivered their headline news before E3 even started (technically, E3 2006 started May 9th, but the first day of real action of the Expo floor was May 10th). There were decent seminars and panel discussions at E3, but the show had no big-name keynotes of its own.
So obviously, the main draw was the exhibit floor, where attendees rushed in to get their hands on the latest games. And yes, E3 delivered a lot of bang for the buck when it came to the exhibit floor. But what about other areas? Here's a quick comparison between Comdex and E3: