For a few video game publishers, E3 a chance to take control in the war for gamers' attentions

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – E3 is a loud place — and not just because of all the virtual bullets and explosions whizzing around attendees.

Over the past 20 years, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which takes over the Los Angeles Convention Center on Monday, has solidified itself as an attention-seeking extravaganza for the video game industry. Hundreds of game publishers and developers will hype forthcoming software and hardware through Thursday by employing everything from star-studded parties to scantily clad models.

In an attempt to cut through the noise, a few exhibitors aren’t merely erecting eye-catching booths within the cavernous Convention Center. They’re adding to the already overflowing schedule by holding their own press conferences.

While gaming heavyweights such as Microsoft, Sony, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft have annually held such stage presentations during E3, a few middleweights are also entering this year’s ring — and expanding it to Hollywood and the Internet.

Bethesda Softworks, publisher of the long-running “Fallout,” ”Doom” and “Elder’s Scroll” series, is holding its first-ever E3 showcase Sunday at the Dolby Theatre, a venue better known for hosting the Oscars than video game blowouts.

“We thought that because we’re at the point where all of our studios, except one, have shipped a game with us, we’ve got enough to talk about, and a showcase would be a good way to do that,” said Pete Hines, Bethesda’s vice-president of marketing and public relations. “We wanted to do it in a way that would include not only all of the industry in attendance at E3 but also people who can’t be in the theatre.”

With the rise of streaming video, publishers now regularly bypass jaded journalists, analysts and other attendees in audiences to solicit eager online viewers with their upcoming wares.

In fact, for the past two years, Nintendo has entirely done away with a live event to instead stream game-related announcements in pre-recorded videos. That’s the plan this year, too.

Other exhibitors haven’t taken such a dramatic step.

After forgoing press briefings for several years, “Final Fantasy” and “Tomb Raider” publisher Square Enix is back organizing its own E3 event for Tuesday morning to detail such upcoming titles as “Just Cause 3” and “Deus Ex: Mankind.”

“There’s so much written about E3, but this is a chance for fans to tune in live and see a 90-minute show from Square Enix where we talk about our future and our pipeline,” said Phil Rogers, Square Enix’s CEO for Europe and the Americas. “They can also watch it later. It’s the best chance for us to connect directly with our fans.”

Despite the push to broadcast more of the festivities online, E3 organizers have actually invited more than 4,000 hardcore fans — or “prosumers,” as they call them — to attend this year’s expo in person. They don’t expect the influx of fans to change the show’s dynamic, and they’re not planning to expand E3 at this point.

“We re-examine E3 every year, and take input from exhibitors and attendees to make next year’s show the best it possibly can be,” said Michael Gallagher, president of Electronic Software Association, which organizes the annual trade show. “If there’s a movement to expand the show, we’d look at doing it.”




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