Communicators prepare for more media-centric E3

LOS ANGELES: This year's E3 Expo will feature fewer extravagant parties, but a more robust media showing that once again will include the consumer press.

LOS ANGELES: This year's E3 Expo will feature fewer extravagant parties, but a more robust media showing that once again will include the consumer press. This year's event will be held June 2 to 4 in Los Angeles.

After a large 2006 show, the organizers allowed media in by invite only, and most of those invites went to gaming and tech outlets, along with top-tier media, according to Dan Hewitt, senior director of the Entertainment Software Association. But with fewer working reporters available to attend conferences, this year's event has scrapped the invitations and is open to a wider range of media through a registration process. Because of this shift, more consumer and mainstream outlets are expected to attend this year.

This year's event will also bring back the large floor booths for companies to showcase their products.

“We're taking advantage of economies of scale and rather than having 20 or 30 individual events we're having this major event,” Hewitt said.

The loosened registration means it's expecting about 45,000 attendees – a tenfold increase from last year, he added.

Even though the recession hasn't hit the video game industry as deeply as other sectors, some of the exhibitors are scaling back.

“We are approaching E3 in a more conservative way this year,” said Aaron Greenberg, director of marketing for Microsoft's Xbox 360. “[Rather than throwing parties], we are optimizing our keynote and booth experience.”

He expected his competitors will also stage fewer expensive stunts and rock concerts – events that not so long ago were expected at E3.

“I think the media will have a more watchful eye [on how much companies are spending],” Greenberg said.

Because a broader range of media are attending this year's event, Microsoft plans to target its E3 message to late night shows, morning shows, and entertainment media, as well as gaming and technology trades.

“We'll do a variety of things with some of the young Hollywood stars who like to attend E3,” Greenberg said, though he declined to disclose details on the product launches that will be unveiled at E3.

“And we'll emphasize what a great value the Xbox is,” Greenberg added. “We're fortunate because the console is half the price [of our competitors]. So we're really well-placed to make value a part of our message.”

Patrick Seybold, senior director of corporate communications for Sony PlayStation, said his company stopped throwing lavish E3 bashes several years ago. But this year's conference will more sharply focus on user experiences in booths and personal interaction with journalists.

“You can have more intimate connections with reporters on a smaller scale,” Seybold said. “And with the booths, we're offering a hands-on experience. It also gives a chance to show that we have three [console] platforms.”

Seybold is also gearing up for a wider diversity in media attendees. The PlayStation's features will be emphasized for the gaming media, while its price value will be the focus for consumer press, and its engineering will be highlighted for the tech press, he added.

“But we'll have to appeal to [all the media] for our larger press conference, and we want that to be our macroplatform for the event,” Seybold said. “Going back [to having a wider range of media present] does remind us to keep our message broad and emphasize that there's something for everyone.”

E3 has also traditionally been a kick-off to the holiday season. Following this year's conference, Seybold said PlayStation's communications team will start targeting media for its holiday message.

“We'll follow E3 with a press tour in New York,” he said. “E3 isn't just about that week, it's a launchpad to the rest of the year.”

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