E3 changes may alter smaller companies' plans

WASHINGTON: With the Entertainment Software Association's plans to scale back its Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) significantly for a more "intimate" conference in 2007, journalists that cover the event and small companies that depend on it are left to contemplate how it affects their strategy.

WASHINGTON: With the Entertainment Software Association's plans to scale back its Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) significantly for a more "intimate" conference in 2007, journalists that cover the event and small companies that depend on it are left to contemplate how it affects their strategy.

The new, smaller expo will still take place in Los Angeles as it has been for 10 years, but not at the city's Convention Center as usual. Although it was only officially three days, the video game conference had become a weeklong event each year, with parties, pre- and post-show events from rival videogame makers that were trying to outdo each other, and a crowd of 10,000.

Tom Ohle, director of Evolve PR, said the smaller companies are going to fare the worst with this change. His firm represents developers such as Stardock and CD Projekt.

He said companies – small relative to Sony and Microsoft – could spend their entire years' marketing and PR budgets on a booth at E3, because there was no other way to present products to hundreds of media representatives at once. Now, these game makers will have to rethink their marketing plans, he said.

"Companies can run their own media tours and do demos close to other events," Ohle said. "But overall, smaller companies can't afford to bring in 200 editors."

According to the Hollywood Reporter, industry sources said that such companies as Sony Computer Entertainment, Microsoft, Electronic Arts and THQ pulled most of their funding out of the show after it got too competitive and the companies were not getting enough return on their considerable investments. The ESA, which could not be reached for comment, issued a press release on July 31 that announced the change.

Large corporations can get by with hosting media days at their campuses, and gather media together for special events to get publicity for new products, Ohle said.

"For the smaller companies, it is just not feasible. There is not enough budget in PR … there are a huge number of second-tier, lower outlets, whose websites get less than one million hits a month. They just fall off the radar."

Ryan Kim, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who covered E3 this year, said even at the big, glitzy E3, he didn't write about many of the smaller companies because spent most of his time doing interviews with the bigger names in the business, such as Electronic Arts.

"I guess we're all waiting to see if E3 is worth covering next year. The devil is in the details," Kim said.

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