Back from E3
by Sande Chen
I'd never been to E3!
I had heard there would be booth babes galore (see www.e3girls.com), massive partying (sample party list), and lots of "behind the scenes" business. If you work in the game industry, you can get into the Expo. In fact, people in L.A. who have gone many times might be jaded with E3, but for the first-time attendee, E3 is an amazing spectacle.
I didn't go to the conference sessions. My sense is that GDC sessions are much more worthwhile and quite frankly, a lot of the same people are speaking at both conferences. I ran into a couple people I had met before and I was glad that some members of the Women in Game Development mailing list were able to meet for breakfast and network. Of note, there was a meeting for the WIGD Virtual Development Team, a mentor/newbie program.
I didn't go to any company parties, although I did hear that Smashmouth performed at the Nokia one. Most of the parties are through people you know, or if you're there as press, you might be able to get invites. Also, you might not be able to see every product because it's by invite only and the booth is closed to the public. It's good to know people at E3.
I did spend some time at the Atari booth learning about the new Terminator game. Black Ops, the developer, had unprecedented access to the filmmakers. Not only will the game sport likenesses of the actors but also, the locations will look exactly as they are in the movie.
The main draw of E3 is the splash and glitter. Imagine huge screens, all blaring previews of upcoming games, competing with huge exhibits complete with mannequins or the occasional human dress-up doll. The noise is incredible. Celebrities, like Tony Hawk or that guy from N Sync, appear at scheduled times. The Army even had a Black Hawk flying near the convention center twice a day to promote America's Army. There are booth babes and Playmates, but also Donald Duck and Pikachu. New games, released games, and demos are all there for people to try. As I would walk through the Expo, people would give me tips on what game to check out. There was this game where people looked like they were punching into the air. Long lines for Mario Kart.
Downstairs, in the smaller hall, (nicknamed the "SARS hall") is where the indie developers and foreign developers strut their stuff. There are pavilions to spotlight developers in certain places (e.g. Hong Kong, France, etc.) and also vendors of accessories. There's not much to see in the smaller hall. It's very low-key.
Outside, the marketing continues with banners, advertisements, big demo reels, cars, and all-over stickers on the floor. It feels like L.A. But as much as the Expo is a showcase, I'm sure there are just as many people trying to land a deal as at GDC. I found GDC to be a better environment, especially if you want to learn or meet people in game development. E3 is primarily buyers and sellers.