I Miss Good Trade Shows

The general disappointment at how TGS was pretty much a non-event this year, coupled with the continued decline of E3, the complete absence of a relevant UK show, Nintendo’s increasingly token – at best, often – appearances and reluctance to resurrect Space World, Microsoft having neglected its own shows since X06, and Leipzig’s support among the console holders varying each year got me thinking: will we ever again get a trade show to match the gaming decadence and one-upmanship of E3 in its heyday?

Probably not, I would guess. I miss never being able to visit a ‘proper’ E3, but you can see why things changed. It gave the industry a focal point each year, providing an excuse for a mention on the evening news for one day of the year and to drive ad revenue for the gaming websites, but it cost a tremendous amount of money and, really, did it do anything that the new, low-key events couldn’t?

Nowadays we’re just as likely to see a big announcement happen out of nowhere, or to see a platform holder or even individual publisher hold a small ‘gamers’ day’ type event. Hype it up, invite the specialist press, get it on their front pages, and you have pretty much the same net benefit as the old dog and pony show, right?

I’m not so sure. I think the industry needs a big focal point of an event like Hollywood needs the Oscars and the music industry needs its Christmas number one. Without E3 there’s no one event for all the big announcements and this year’s major releases to start the hype train in advance of the Christmas season. Do we expect a mainstream press that’s ambivalent at best, if not outright dismissive, about gaming to bother with a dozen minor events to show the latest sequel? Of course they won’t.

From the perspective of a gamer I actually like the constant trickle of news that comes from surprise events and developer visits, not to mention the wholesome nuggets of new information that often appear on development blogs, but it doesn’t make it easy to find, either on an individual basis or for the media outlets themselves – how many sources would you have to cover to read every piece of news? E3 got everyone’s attention and everyone expecting the big announcements and unveilings to be there. It was so big and extravagant that the TV news couldn’t help but pay attention, and now we don’t really have anything like that.

It’s a shame, and I don’t know whether or not it’s going to change. There is all kinds of whining after another disappointing show on the GAFs of the world, but most people don’t know or care and I’m sure that, if I was a major publisher, I’d be looking at the few million dollars that I’d just saved in not putting on a light show and losing weeks of development time, and shrugging my shoulders. Money talks…

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