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With no surprises, E3 needs an overhaul

Once there was a time when the yearly Electronic Entertainment Expo was the big show.

All the big announcements were made there. All the new gadgets got shown off. It was the first look at lots of new stuff, leaving us wanting more.

That's changed. Now the E3 Media and Business Summit, as it's known, has gone invitation only, cutting down attendance from a high of 70,000 in 2005 to somewhere around 5,000. It's been moved from the third week in May to early July, concluding at the L.A. Convention Center last Friday. And by most accounts, the show is worse off.

But don't take my word for it — just look at the tons of coverage out there. There were no major announcements. No big unveilings. Almost nothing we haven't heard or read about beforehand. That's an issue, because E3 used to be the main event. And I'm not the only one who doesn't like it.

Ubisoft executive director Alain Corre was quoted on Kotaku as saying the new format works for him, but the timing doesn't.

"It's one milestone in the communication of your products throughout the year, and it's important because it's the ramp-up for Christmas," Corre said. "... (But) E3 here, mid-July, in the Convention Center in downtown LA — it's not appropriate I would say."

Corre did say he liked how it was no longer a public event, thanks to the new Entertainment for All Expo, which is open to the commoner in October. But that's a bad sign when a major developer is afraid of showing its own products to the target audience. That speaks of a hubris that only amplifies the dearth of interesting stuff coming out of the convention.

What do we have? A little attachment for your Wiimote that will make it work better. A sequel to Far Cry. A sequel to Silent Hill. A sequel to Tomb Raider. A sequel to Knights of the Old Republic. A sequel to Gears of War. A sequel to Fable. A sequel to Fallout. A sequel to God of War. A sequel to Final Fantasy. A sequel to Rock Band. A sequel to Resident Evil. Who knew?

Thank goodness for my devotion to all things zombie (RE5 and Valve's Left 4 Dead are at the top of my list), otherwise I'd be bored stiff. There were no innovations being shown at E3. Everything is a first-person shooter or survival horror or a role-playing game. Snore.

Even the interesting standalone titles presented are derivative. Left 4 Dead is a co-op Half-Life. Madworld is a Frank Miller-esque version of Streets of Rage. Even the dazzling Mirror's Edge, a Parkour-inspired freerunning sandbox game, is simply an FPS in which you're not always shooting.

Where's this year's Okami? Where's this year's Guitar Hero? Where's this year's Shadow of the Colossus? Where's the game that shatters notions of what gaming should be, and where it's headed next?

Looks like we'll have to wait until next year's E3.

— Joshua Gillin writes about video games and entertainment news for tbt*. You can challenge his opinions at jgillin@tampabay.com.

With no surprises, E3 needs an overhaul 07/20/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 12:29pm]

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