February 1, 2012

The E3 Expo & Inclusion of Diversity

I haven't tried registering for E3 Expo yet for our website The Married Gamers.  Several friends have already been rejected despite the excellent work they do and their previous stellar E3 coverage they've done in years past..

The expo is a big deal for gaming websites & podcasts.  I've gone to four of them so far and they are NOT a vacation (although I do take vacation days to attend).  It's a metric ton of work.  The day is filled with appointments, and you never have enough help, time or energy.  Also it's expensive staying for a week in downtown Los Angeles.  It's great for original content that goes farther than the plethora of press releases and announcements.  It is also great to build relationships with PR and community managers.

However, the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) which runs the event has become less and less interested in letting smaller community sites into the three day event.  In addition to checking the validity of your credentials (business license, photo id, articles written in an editorial capacity, etc) they have are also using a measured standard of how big a site's audience is through use of sites like Alexa, Quantcast, Compete and the like.  So it's easy-peasy for larger commercial sites to get in and harder for niche sites like The Married Gamers to get in each year.

I can understand why the ESA does this.  E3 Expo is a very busy and well attended games convention.  It is an industry event where not just games companies like to announce new games, consoles, projects to the press but also make sure they attract the attention of trade analysts and retail execs.  It's not a convention to fuck around.  It's where the sausage gets made so to speak for the gaming media.  To some indie sites (not in any way everyone) E3 is a trip to Willy Wonkas.  Some sort of reward or vacation.  Some indie sites have also been involved creating fake tickets and other nefarious things that have giving the rest of us gaming indie sites a black eye.  So I can understand why the massive media sites sometimes eats up all the available oxygen at E3.

However as much as I respect sites like Joystiq, MSNBC, G4, and others there IS a reason why smaller indie sites (and podcasts) should have access to E3 Expo.  They tend to offer opinions, interviews, coverage that is MORE than "Just the Facts" or 'coverage for everyone.'  Sites like The Married Gamers or our friends at Co-Optimus weight their coverage towards the co-op gaming experience.  Other make certain game series or genres their speciality.  One of my recent favorite site, XBLA Fans only covers (and rather well) the Xbox Live Arcade games.  Not to take anything away from the paid journalists but I am attracted to the passions of the indie gaming sites, blogs, and podcasts.

There SHOULD be a discussion on how to include smaller hard-working sites.  This discussion should include the ESA, game companies, and paid and indie media.  Perhaps extending a day just for smaller media and games communities can be considered.  Maybe smaller games and communities sites can be extended special passes courtesy of the games industry who are presenting on the show floors.  I won't claim to have an answer other than a hope and belief that E3 is made better when it includes the diversity of coverage that we Indie sites often offer.

So returning to The Married Gamers and E3 Expo.  I worry about our Alexa/Compete/Quantcast numbers.  December has historically been a down month for us and a great many other sites.  Recent staff additions have our site starting to really fire on all cylinders.  I have never cheated/tricked Alexa as I have heard some sites have done.  And E3 is always a working priority for any and all TMG staff members.  However, I have a feeling that we may only get at the most one invite this year, which honestly makes coverage of the event very hard, especially as we move into more video interviews.

I am mentally preparing myself for bad news when we do apply (most likely in March), and even if we don't get a media invite we will try our best to report the "news" and hope that in other conventions like PAX or community events we can concentrate on articles that adult gamers, gaming families, and married gamers want to know more about.  At the very least it saves me some vacation hours at my library job.


Bryan said...

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for you guys but I've always wondered if it would just be more efficient to cover the event through the live-streams. Good luck!

Jeff Rivera said...

It's a big issue. We've written about it on our site. The problem is, many sites need to get in to increase their readership. With them doubling the price for general admission, it's a burden on those that are asked to pay to get in.

Here was our take on the problems with the media credential process: http://gamertheory.com/story.aspx/214/The+problems+with+the+E3+Expo+media+credential+qualifications/