announced today that it's not going to be on the show floor for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year. Instead, the company will hold a press conference on Sunday, and no doubt have the usual conference rooms for important meetings. THis doesn't mean EA is passing up the chance for major publicity; the company is planning a public event at the nearby Nokia Center, and another at the same time in London, where the public can come and and get its hands on EA games. These EA Play events will require tickets to attend, though EA has not yet said how it will distribute those tickets.
A few points spring to mind about this development. First, this isn't really going to save EA money over its usual presence -- it may well end up costing more, and it certainly will be more difficult to organize and stage. So this isn't being done as a cost-saving measure. Clearly, EA is doing this because it feels the effort will generate more interest (and perhaps more press) than its traditional showing. I wonder if they'll allow the public to stream from within the event? That would be clever.
The hardworking development teams will find no relief from this change; there will be just as much pressure to get games ready for E3 as there was for a more traditional show.
The key here is EA really wants to get the public in to experience new titles first-hand. Going direct to customers is far more important than impressing some retail buyers these days, as sales move to digital distribution -- and a direct relationship with gameplayers. These EA Play events, no doubt with others to come at other shows (Gamescom, certainly -- and PAX shows? Other consumer shows? Not a surprise if they do) will help build even stronger connections with gamers.
The larger question is whether any other game companies plan to follow suit, or will the wait and see. The E3 show already began experimenting with letting in some of the public last year, when companies exhibiting at the show were given some passes to distribute to the public for one day. How long will it be before the show is opened up completely to the public? It's bound to happen sooner or later...