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Smaller Is Better

Dana Massey Posted:
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Post-E3: The Dawn of the Conference Segmentation

Christopher Sherman, the Exec. Director of AGC, tells us what this means for him

The king of all gaming shows met a surprising end this week. The show has been rethought and will no longer resemble the circus of years past. E3’s passing has already inspired a number of touching pieces. This isn’t one of them. The move was the inevitable result of booth-bloat – spending millions for an unquantifiable return - and, with any luck, signals a new era of specialized gaming conferences.

The question everyone in this field faces today is where to spend our time, energy and money in the future. There are a dozen game conferences other than E3, but will any of them become the one-stop shopping of video game conferences?

“Smaller is better,” says Christopher Sherman, the Executive Director of the Austin Game Conference, which has been mentioned in some circles as a possible successor to E3. “We don’t aspire to be a 60,000 person event.”

Sherman believes that the future of game conferences lies in segmentation. Sherman’s company, The Game Initiative, hosts conferences on a range of topics. Their flagship show, AGC, focuses almost exclusively on online games and MMORPGs. They also host a mobile game conference in Seattle, a writing conference in Austin and even a European Advertising Forum in London.

“E3 was a media frenzy and it was the right place and the right time,” he added, “but we will always be an MMO show.”

E3 was killed by its own success. As it spiralled out of control, the booths got bigger, the press room got larger and the audience got information overload. We probably publish a significant percentage of our yearly previews during that week. The problem is that everyone else did too.

The message is lost in the noise.

“We’ve had publishers and developers tell us I go to E3 and cannot make a dent,” said Sherman. He went on to explain how they can get almost as much exposure – at least among the right people - spending a heck of a lot less money by going to more focused shows like AGC.

So, will we have a new E3? Probably not. As many others have written this week, the industry is just too large. For MMORPG.com, AGC is the new E3. It will be up to each gaming site to come up with their own focus and just like the conferences, the press coverage will be distributed throughout the year.

For fans, this really is only a good thing. Sure, the Disneyland of video games is dead and gone, but without one single conference to end all conferences, so too is the urge for game developers to make highly polished and often misleading demos. It’s harder to prepare when you don’t know when or where the enemy – or the gaming press – will find you.

Developers and publishers save money, fans get more honest coverage and gaming journalists don’t have to spend May in Los Angeles. E3, may you rest in peace.

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Dana Massey