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The New New E3

Longtime attendees to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) may have noticed some significant changes this year.

Much like the landscape of downtown Los Angeles, which for the second year in a row is home to the annual video game industry trade show, the event continues to evolve. While the location now sports high-rise buildings and new theaters where there was once just pavement patches for parking, the show too has transformed with the times.

But unlike the new City of Angels, the show is just new and different for the sake of being different. Fortunately, some of the video game giants have realized that they can take advantage of this new improved city, notably Nintendo, which staged its press conference at a the new Club Nokia complex and theater. This was welcome relief for those of us in the media used to trekking out Hollywood. Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo that events could be held at, or at least near, the convention center.

Sony, once again, opted to get the media out and about, and thus added to the already-congested streets of L.A. by holding its event at the Shrine Auditorium, while Electronic Arts and Ubisoft each took advantage of the city’s plentiful “once grand” theaters for their respective press conferences. But whether it was the software companies showcasing their latest titles, or the hardware manufacturers once again patting themselves on the back for a job well done, the theme was consistent. Don’t leave the audience wanting more; just continue on until you have repeated the message and shown a few too many game demos.

The video game industry should also take note that a press conference should be held when there is actual news to announce, not merely as an excuse to hold a mass demonstration of new or more often upcoming software. While many of the titles showcased actually did impress, the message and the impact is lost anytime the press conferences passed the one-hour mark.

The other thing that the video game publishers and developers should realize is that celebrities don’t really impress if there is nothing to show off. While Microsoft earned kudos and praise for bringing out Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to hype the upcoming The Beatles: Rock Band for the Xbox 360, Ubisoft didn’t really need to let director James Cameron ramble on for 20-plus minutes about the game version of his upcoming film Avatar. What did you think this was James, the Oscars?

As for the actual event, E3 may have finally hit its mark. The show wasn’t too big (or too loud), which was always the problem with the circa 1997 to 2006 events; nor was the show too small, which was the problem with both the 2007 Santa Monica event and last year’s 2008 mini-event. In fact, unlike last year, the show has taken advantage of the size of the convention center, allowing for an event where there is room to move about, to see and even play the games.

But no doubt someone will complain. The organizers of E3 should have long learned that you can’t satisfy all the attendees all the time. This year, however, the show leveled up and did so in a very good way.