games reporter

New E for All event: Playtime for the public

With the E3 Media Summit reduced to a fraction of its size (32 exhibitors and 3,500 media attendees, compared with 400 exhibs and 60,000-plus attendees in 2006) and relocated to a hangar in Santa Monica in July from the cavernous Los Angeles Convention Center in May, IDG World Expo is creating the first consumer video game expo: Entertainment for All (or E for All), set for Oct. 18-21 at the Convention Center.

Mary Dolaher, executive vp at IDG World Expo, who spent the past 12 years organizing E3 for the Entertainment Software Assn., says Los Angeles will start seeing advertising for the consumer event this month. Billboards, bus wraparounds and having the letter "E" replace the "Y" on the Hollywood sign will aim to get the public aware of the show.

"We have extensive advertising programs scheduled between May and October," Dolaher says. "The first part will be the Entertainment for All show, and over time it will segue into just the letter 'E,' and by then, people will recognize that and know about the show."

IDG World Expo organizes E3 as well. That invitation-only event, which Dolaher says is sold out, will continue to focus on the media.

E for All will introduce the GamePro People's Choice Videogame Awards, which Dolaher says will be broadcast by a TV network (which network and whether it will air live has not been finalized). An Oct. 18 concert at the Nokia Theatre, scheduled to open that week across from the Convention Center, will celebrate game music. There also will be an E3 staple, the "Into the Pixel" art show.

"We'll have a game tournament area in the back of South Hall where 4,000-7,000 people will gather to watch professional gamers compete for cash and prizes over all four days," Dolaher says. "We'll have for the hardcore gamers a Gamer's Lounge. They've never been allowed into E3, and we want this show to be a special experience for them. We'll also have an International Lounge for visitors from other countries."

While October traditionally is a quiet time for the game media outside of reviews of new product, Dolaher says the show will be used by publishers as a stage to announce and debut new games for 2008.

Publishers will be able to sell games directly to consumers at the show, something not done at E3. Dolaher says companies also will be able to get direct feedback from consumers just as games are being shipped to retail in November and December. About 50% of annual game sales in the U.S. occur during these two months.

"For October, publishers are telling us it's critical for them to see how those games are being received by the consumer," Dolaher says. "We're running a consumer event with very tight restrictions on size and scope of the event."

Nintendo has signed on as an anchor exhibitor, and Dolaher expects the majority of publishers will come aboard. She expects sponsor activity to be brisk as well.

Dolaher says she's been telling partners that 20,000-30,000 people, which was the number of nonexhibitor badges from last year's E3, will attend. She says they're in a position to have a 12,000-person database of people who want to register — and registration doesn't open until June.

Four-day passes will run $90, with two-day passes $45-$65 for advance purchases. Onsite tickets will cost $110 for four-day passes and $50-$75 for two-day passes.

"We did industry research on price points on what we thought the average family would want to spend," says Dolaher, who notes that the prices are in line with rock concerts and sporting events.