Why Does Comic-Con Work, But Not E3?

I’ve been following the Comic-Con 2008 coverage which is the first time I’ve paid any attention to the show, I suppose with E3 being the dead horse that it is I’m now paying attention to alternate avenues of, well, cool shit being previewed. While watching all the coverage I was surprised at the amount of presence the video game industry has, I know there are many games out there based on comic properties but it goes beyond that with the likes of CliffyB from the Gears of Wars team making appearances and so on, as well as a fair share of celebrities. There also seems to be a general “positivity”, for lack of a better word, surrounding the show in general which I feel has alluded E3 even before it was scaled down.

So my question is, why is it that the ESA had to scale E3 down to the level that it has rather than maintaining something along the lines of the Comic-Con which members of the industry, retailers, consumers, etc. seem to be content with?

E3 was ultimately about selling to the big chains. Spielberg didn’t get half the red carpet treatment that the head buyer for Toys R Us used to get. Think Cannes rather than SDCC.

With consolidation both of the retail markets and the publishers its become more effective to put on individual mini-shows on a publisher by publisher basis. Certainly EA got sick and tired of put on a massively expensive dog and pony only to be unfavorably compared to everybody else. It started turning into a losing proposition about seven years ago.

I do think that PAX will continue to grow, and there’s clearly a growing games presence at the SDCC that I think will explode if/when it escapes from the limited confines of San Diego.

I dunno, each show has a different feel to me. I’ve not been to E3 in a while, but it never had the community atmosphere that Comic-Con has, which might have something to do with it. Also, they mention this sort of thing every year, but I doubt CC is leaving San Diego any time soon, if ever.

It’s simple. SDCC and PAX are for the fans. E3 used to be an uneasy combination of fan conference and press/industry conference. It bloated into economic unfeasibility and got stripped back to purely industry (even skimping on the press), sucking all the joy right out of it. Buh-byeee E3.

E3 was never meant to be for fans. Full stop.

Because the public did not attend E3, and thus revenue was limited. Further, as the purpose of E3 was to show unfinished wares to retailers and (to a lesser degree) press, allowing the general public in would be less than wise. Over and over, the gaming fandom has proven that they cannot view preview builds with any kind of measured perspective.

The two events are intensely different in nature, even if they may look similar at a glance. Also, Comicon is the most aggravating convention/expo/gathering I have ever attended. Even at its height, E3 was never as bad.

I understand where E3 in it’s previous form became unfeasible, but why instead of scaling it down to it’s current form could they not turn it into a more community-oriented event which allowed the public access as well? It seems to be working out for Comic-Con and other shows. If the ESA doesn’t want E3 to die, they should reorganize it to allow anyone to attend with a set amount of space reserved for the industry.

PAX, as much as I appreciate anything gaming-related, has always felt like an excuse for people to get off their asses and travel for a few days rather than standing for anything meaningful. E3 was a spectacle, it brought so much attention to our corner of the world and it actually shined a great light on the industry as something other than a niche geek hobby.

I always enjoyed E3, but I can see why the big publishers grew tired of it. It’s expensive and they really don’t need the exposure. They can generate just as much press coverage by running their own events.

It was more of a benefit for the smaller publishers who got a chance for a few days to show their wares to a lot of press people and buyers.

Someone told me that the big publishers began to feel that they were essentially subsidizing E3 and, in effect, the marketing efforts of their smaller competitors. I can see the reasoning behind that line of thought.

I do think that the ESA dropped the ball. Everyone complained about the noise level and the crowds and about too many non-industry people getting in, and it just seemed to get worse each year.

Isn’t that what they tried with E For All, more or less? As I understand it, that wasn’t all that successful, even though it’s happening again this year.

I think part of the problem with a gaming open public expo is that most developers struggle to meet the release dates as it is. They don’t want to risk making their game look bad or spend the time creating a demo in the first place. Having E3 in May meant trying to have something good to show six months before a holiday release. I saw Halo at an industry event a few weeks before release, and if the public had seen it at that point it would have killed a lot of the buzz for that game. As Matt says, the average gamer doesn’t understand buggy product months ahead of time. Look at how the anti-Fallout 3 crowd jumped all over graphical and framerate issues with what was shown a few weeks ago.

However, Nintendo manages to put on a fall show here in Seattle every year and PAX does decently, so maybe a fall public show would work. On the other hand, that’s pretty late to build a lot of hype.

I wonder about ComiCon continuing success. It’s pretty crazy the way Hollywood has co-opted the event over the last few years.

I do wonder what will happen to Comicon if/when the Hollywood comic movie boom fades out in the next 5-10 years.

I wouldn’t mind a bit smaller comic-con.

It seems that the journalists want the previews and the publishers want the crowds, excitement, and fanboys. I think the big pubs do the former with their journo days while comic-con and PAX handle the latter. Looks like E3 can’t split the difference and will be tough to survive.

It’s just been strange to see more and more projects with even more tenuous connections to comic book fandom heading to SDCC for major announcements and panels. I mean, there was a Bones panel this year. It’s not even genre television. By next year there will be a Miley Cyrus panel…

Admit it, Mark. You’re just bummed that they don’t give us free Heineken anymore.

Is there any place I can watch/download video of the panels at Comic Con 08?

ComicCon and PAX are conventions, they were created for the express purpose of bringing products and entertainment to the fans. E3 is a trade show, it was always meant to be a closed doors event that showcased technological advancements, upcoming products and market strategies of developers and publishers to the retail buyers and corporate execs that made up their immediate customer base, not the consumer that was one step further removed from that process. E3 transformed into something way too large to control, and counter productive to it’s original goals, so they clipped it back and now it works the way it’s supposed to once again, albeit in a rather boring fashion.

I don’t think we’ll ever see a consumer oriented show on the level of the old E3. It’s simply not in the best interest of publishers and developers to spend that much time and money trying to convince consumers to buy products they’re likely already going to buy anyway. The smaller booths at places like PAX, ComicCon and GenCon work to generate buzz among a core group of consumers about specific products, and the large volume of internet coverage brings product announcements, trailers, demos and news directly into the living rooms of gamers, negating the need for a consumer-oriented show.

You see that with a lot of conventions. Being a geek of sufficient intensity that you’d attend a convention does tend to mean you have a geek subspecialization, so parts of the convention will be there to appeal to fanbases other than the big show.

There are video game and Asian cinema rooms at Otakon, the big anime convention. Comic dealers show up at GenCon. When I was eleven, there were people running tabletop RPGs at the Chicago Comicon.

OP: Cause in the internet age consumers and early adopters matter and game buyers (other than at Walmart, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Target, Amazon, and Gamestop) don’t? And even those 5 guys are debatable?

Last year they were available on Xbox Live. I haven’t checked to see if they did it again this year.