The Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest, messiest, most intense conference of the computer and video game industry, started in Los Angeles on Thursday, although there have been so many pre-announcement announcements and pre-show demos, it feels like the expo has been going on for weeks.
On Wednesday night, L.A. was rocked by big parties thrown by Sega and Nintendo. That was after a day of pre-show activities, including full-on press conferences by Sony and Nintendo, and an event held by Konami to show off Metal Gear Solid 2 for the PlayStation 2 -- a game with the kind of buzz that indicates it could be one of the show's real darlings. A week before the expo, Electronic Arts had two special showings of games that it's demo'ing at E3; Ripcord Games even hosted a pre-E3 event two weeks earlier, which culminated in a trip to Paramount's Great America, a Silicon Valley amusement park. And companies big and small have been flooding game journalists with promotional materials. Sierra, Activision, Electronic Arts, Rockstar, Crave, Agetec, Sega itself -- every developer that makes games for Sega's system -- have all touted the games they are showing at E3.
From Thursday to Saturday, just about every game journalist and game company on the planet will crowd into Los Angeles for the "official" days of E3. About 2,400 games are on display here this year, plus a variety of peripherals, edutainment software and the ubiquitous booth babes. All will be vying for media coverage -- but while the game press trots dutifully from booth to booth looking, tinkering and asking questions, almost no one will have time to actually play the games. And it will be hard to make a lasting impression amid the hubbub.
Industry people know this. That's why reporters' desks are covered with promotional materials. That's why more companies are hosting "pre-E3" shows of their games. But in their efforts to be heard above the din, they are simply extending the period of pandemonium. E3 is barely starting, and I'm already knee-deep in new game literature; I've already seen so much and heard so much, it seems the only real reason to be here is for the parties.
OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Most companies do "leave a few surprises to unveil at the show," as Julie Roether of Activision, publisher of Quake, has promised.
But just the same, the show seems to get longer and longer each year, with more and more pre-E3 activities. There's been talk at every E3 I've been to (this is my fourth) about extending the hoopla to four or five days. Everyone grimaces at the suggestion -- the show is already so intense and exhausting -- but this year I laugh at the notion, not because it's funny, but because E3 is already more than a few weeks long.