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The Free Zone: Post-E3 Thoughts

By Richard Aihoshi on June 21, 2010 | Columns | Comments

Post-E3 Thoughts

Richard Aihoshi's latest column serves up his observations after this year's edition, and also looks ahead to a show with a much stronger F2P focus, ChinaJoy.

After attending about nine or 10 in a row, I've haven't been to the past couple of E3s, which means I wasn't in Los Angeles last week for the 2010 edition. Overall, my reaction this time was pretty much the same as last year, when I found that the one thing I truly missed was the opportunity the show provides to see and speak with a lot of bright, interesting, cool people in the industry.

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How about the event itself? Well, yes, I missed it too - but definitely to a lesser extent.

I was always fortunate in not having to cover past E3s like many writers who are obliged to split their time between seeing game presentations and trying to write them up as quickly as possible, most often as show reports and/or mini-previews. I opted not to do those, which let me take twice as many meetings at the cost of not putting up any articles until the week after. So, I got the chance to see and learn more, but my coverage generated fewer page views than it would have had I approached the show in the "standard" manner.

A major reason for accepting this trade-off was because I felt that after sitting through the same scripted demos and pitches as dozens of other writers, I couldn't consistently provide coverage I considered meaningfully different. It certainly didn't help in this regard that many of these sessions only lasted 25 or even 15 minutes; I don't recall any that were more than an hour. That might be long enough to get a half-decent feel for some types of games, but for MMOGs? Not so much.

From a different angle, some people are under the impression that covering E3 is cool because you get to see hundreds of games. Or at least dozens. This simply isn't so. Do the math. The halls are open for about 24 hours. Assuming an average of 30 minutes per appointment, including transit, that means a maximum of 48. But that's with a perfectly full schedule. And without taking time to write anything, which can reduce the number by half or more. You do see a lot more, but only for a few seconds as you walk or run past on the way to your next meeting.

Understandably, there was never any real chance of any publication paying me to work E3 the way I used to, and I'm too set in my ways to change. So, I didn't expect or even attempt to land a gig. One part of me felt kind of wistful about not being there, but another didn't mind at all.

Actually, if I had to choose one major industry event to attend this year, it might be ChinaJoy, which will take place in Shanghai at the end of next month. Part of my interest arises simply because it would be a new experience. I've never made it even though I've been trying to watch the industry there for about as long as the show has run, which is now eight years. Another is that MMOGs predominate; they're front and center, not mixed among various other genres I don't cover.

In addition, there's an important element that's difficult if not impossible to gauge well from the other side of the planet. It's also hard to put into words since it's a matter of improved feel for the industry and the market. The two times I've been to the GSTAR show made a significant difference in my understanding of Korea, both factually and at more of a gut level. With China, I have yet to step up to that next level.

Another consideration is that a number of Chinese publishers are increasing their presence here in North America. It's not universal, but there can be advantages to having contacts at international companies' headquarters as well as dealing with their regional offices.

Now, if I can only figure out how to cover the show without having to write up a bunch of reports on individual game presentations.

This week's MMOG trivia

Name at least two MMORPGs (not strategy or strategy hybrid MMOs) in which the player's on-screen representation is or can be more than two figures, not counting pets or mounts.

Answer

The Free Zone The Free Zone Editorials
Richard Aihoshi has been writing about MMOGs since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. As a result, he has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.

He is the former Editor of RPG Vault and his column, focusing on free to play MMOs, appears on MMORPG.com every Monday.
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