This year marks the first time in over 10 years that E3 has been open to the general public. While a small number of general admission tickets have always been offered for a high price. This year the ESA decided to take a stab at opening the event to the public and 15,000 tickets were released for the public. These tickets were pulled from press and industry polls, and as a result, many industry and press folks did not get in to the event. Instead large numbers of the public (who paid handsomely for the privilege) are currently mobbing the LACC.

Last year at E3 I had the fantastic chance to rub elbows with giants, I was on the same (uncrowded) floor as Hideo Kojima, Cliff Bleszinski, and countless other executives, developers, and journalists. We were all part of the same industry and as a result all of us were connected. E3 was the Promised Land, both for developers and journalist, and perhaps that rosy view of it is partly to blame for why the public is disappointed. They expected an experience like I had last year, where you could walk around play AAA games, and see famous figures from the industry,  and maybe eat, and drink with them. But, that didnt happen.

Overcrowding, long lines, and a general distaste with the handling of crowds seem to have combined with a public for years have been told that E3 is a magic land, and left many gamers disappointed. After a lackluster attendance and an honestly quiet show floor last year, the ESA seemingly had little choice but to open up the doors to public. But, based on the fan and industry reaction it may be time to reconsider at the very least the number of public tickets sold.

Below is a collection of Tweets from Day 1 and the start of day 2 from a variety of both press and non-press folks expressing just how crowded E3 is, and more than a few questioning if E3 should even continue if its going to be like this. Even large vendors like Razer and Nintendo’s twitter feeds were abuzz with photos of packed wall to wall people. This is an extremely rare event as companies, especially those like Razer, tend to offer little to no comment on these things as a matter of policy. While there were crowded places last year, nothing like what I am seeing now happened.

 

I very much enjoyed Holly Green’s article E3 Is Too Crowded Now (And That Sucks) and have to say that of the points she makes are quite good. In particular I want to point out

“Are the booths in South Hall like that this year? Hard to say. I couldn’t get close enough to tell.”

The south hall is where last year I enjoyed a couple of free drinks from some of the larger booths, where there was space for interviews, and where I spent time when I just needed to cool off. To hear that its so much more crowded this year than last, even when Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are in the North Hall, is to say the least disheartening.

So what do we do about this ESA? Well I have a few suggestions. The first (and probably easiest) is to simply spit the con, keeping the early day or two days closed and opening the rest to the public. This gives journalists, industry people, and buyers time to see what they need and still lets the public in to the same convention. This is how Gamescom does it, and its easier for the developers and companies because they don’t have to set up twice.

The second option is to simply create a new convention. This has actually been done before . The Entertainment for all convention in 2007 and 2008 was a pre-PAX attempt at doing this. Reviving this convention (which had 18K attend it in 2007) would return E3 to its roots, a trade show, and allow the ESA to establish a strong second presence in the convention market. This convention ended up being a flop, and only went on for two years, but the market is much different now than it was 10 year ago.

Personally I don’t care which avenue the ESA chooses but even before the end of day 1 it was clear that the current strategy wasn’t going to work. E3 has long been the shining beacon on the hill of the games industry. So, I understand that the public also wants to be able to get a piece of that, but for the ESA’s core mission of “serving the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish computer and video games for video game consoles”  to continue to be fulfilled consumers need to take a back seat, to industry, at least for a little while.