The ESA put out a press release
today touting the upcoming E3 show by dropping the facts that 90% of the space has been sold and that they have 40,000 people registered to go to the show. There's also a lot of talk about people having a " high-caliber experience with maximum efficiency" but I'm starting to wonder if the ESA is setting the bar a bit too high for itself this year.
After the last two "invite only" E3's there's certainly no where to go but up but I have to wonder if the global economic crisis is going to have a severe impact on what we see at the show. I don't think we're going to see companies blowing a ton of money on elaborate displays like they did in the hey day of the event. For one, companies are being a bit more tight fisted with their money and a lot of the PR and marketing folks that would have manned those booths are now collecting unemployment.
Is Activision going to have a huge booth to show off all their games? Hell yeah. Are they going to have a mini-skateboard park setup to showcase the return of the Tony Hawk series? Probably not. I doubt NC Soft is going to have the presence they once did (i.e. no fire breathing heavy metal bands) as they've been bleeding cash for the last year or so. I'm guessing that Microsoft will also have a subdued presence at the show because they've already eliminated large parts of their community and marketing teams.
There's also the matter of strapped publishers like THQ and Midway. THQ usually had some interesting booths for their products but I can't imagine them having a lot of cash to spend when they are in the midst of selling a few of their under performing studios off. It will also be interesting to see if other publishers like Atari and Square Enix do for the show as both companies aren't exactly flush with cash.
A second thing to consider is that E3 is no longer the only game in town as the Penny Arcade Expo has filled a lot of the whole left by the last two E3's. Are marketing folks going to spend all their money at E3 with a minimal presence at PAX or split money between the two? Sure they can re-use some of the fixtures for PAX but PAX will probably have more people coming through their doors than E3 will.
I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade as I'm excited to see a return to the grand E3 tradition of years past but now is the time to start thinking that we won't be able to judge the success of the new format by this year's show alone. It will be a big step up from the last few years but those expecting the gross excess of years past may be disappointed. I hope that I'm wrong but if the ESA builds this up to being the E3 of old and it doesn't live up to expectations they may see a significant backlash from the gaming audience. Or worse yet, apathy for the 2010 show.