I get such a radically mixed reaction from anyone I talk to when I bring up the Electronic Entertainment Expo (aka E3) that I don't know what to believe anymore. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, E3 was actually kind of fun, a breathless spectacle of sound and light for people who can't get enough Disneyworld in their diet.
Never mind whether anything substantive occurred, E3 had videos of games splashed across towering screens and phone-booth-sized speakers pumping bass like sonic heroin straight up your spinal column and half-naked women handing out tote bags and tchotchkes like Nintendo 64 watches with designer leather bands and the little four-color three-dimensional "N" logo embellishing their faces. It peddled access like penny candy and offered the chance to hobnob with industry bigwigs even if half the media ended up booze-soaked and celebrity-addled during the days that followed.
Now it's an invite-only affair catering strictly to media types and closed to the public, with a half-hearted "E For All" public show scheduled separately later in the summer. Suffice to say the new approach has done worse for the show, not better, despite the ESA's well-intentioned attempt to make it less about the pageantry and more about meaningfully connecting with industry luminaries.
Anyway. The rumor yesterday courtesy Newsweek's N'Gai Croal was that the ESA might be bailing wildly to save a nearly sunk ship reacting to E3's waning significance by extending a series of "public days" to follow the main event purportedly scheduled for next June. Shortly thereafter, however, additional sources told Croal that the original statement "that there would be an extra two days specifically set aside for the public -- Friday June 5th and Saturday June 6th -- may have been incorrect."
So where does that leave us? Exactly where we started: Without a proper US-based video games trade show the public can get genuinely excited about.
Word to the wise: It's not the letting more of the public in the ESA ought to be worrying about, it's getting vendors like Microsoft and Sony and Nintendo to live up to their former glory days, when the audience could count on genuinely riveting reveals and blinged-up third and fourth and fifth shoes to drop. A bit more sturm, in other words, and a trifle less drang, please.