The media does a great job of giving blanket coverage to nearly every booth at E3, but many people forget that some members of the media have booths of their own. E3 is a big source of content, but its also a great chance for publicity for these large media organizations. Ironically, it can be pretty hard to find information and opinion about these media booths in the media itself. In an effort to correct that a bit, here’s my thoughts on the various media exhibitions at the show.
The strongest media booth by far, Ziff Davis’ booth greeted visitors as soon as they entered West Hall. Booth babes standing behind a long counter handed out free Ziff magazines to the jostling masses lined up in front of them, creating quite a traffic jam at times. Inside the booth proper, four flat-screen TVs were on loop showing highlights of EGM’s Dan Hsu, Jennifer Tsao and others giving their opinions on CNN’s Headline News. Below them, more booth babes gave free Joystick Junkies shirts to people willing to subscribe or renew their subscriptions to a Ziff mag (who says booth’s have to just cost money).
Subscribing also got you to the front of a longish line to get your photograph and 1up username on a 1up-branded photo ID… thing. When I asked the attendant what exactly this ID was good for, she suggested using it as a luggage tag. What a great idea! My luggage was very easy to pick out. The attendants also gave out light-up heart-shaped 1Up necklaces, to show your undying love for the Web site that gave you a free luggage tag.
Near the end of the show on Thursday, the Ziff booth turned in to party central, with a large group of 1up.com member-bloggers from a VIP list. I asked the attendant repeatedly what it took to get on the list, but she kept deflecting the question. Looked like a rather eclectic bunch — some dressed up in video game outfits, some dressed in jeans and t-shirts, some dressed in khakis and button down shirts. Free smoothies and a love of 1up.com were enough to bring these myriad groups together in a strong show of brand loyalty.
Just to the side of 1up’s booth, near the corner of West hall, sat Gamespot’s grand booth. The front of the booth had an information desk where attendees could pick up buttons advertising things such as Gamespot’s Button Mashing feature, the Games and Music Experience show (which Gamespot was promoting), and a general button that just said “Gamespot E3 2005.” I can’t envision the situation where I would wear any of these buttons, but I picked up a few anyway (I’m a big game journalism dork).
Just to the side of the info. desk was a highly visible elevated stage where Gamespot produced its live, streaming video coverage of the show. Throughout the three days an impressive string of developers, publishers and Gamespot personalities sat at the brightly-lit desk to share their thoughts. The interviews were amplified by large speakers to be audible for a long way down the aisles (quite an accomplishment amid the E3 din) and attracted fluctuating crowds of a few to a few dozen people. Short of free magazines to give out, this live stage show seemed to be a pretty effective way of trumpeting coverage.
The third major part of the Gamespot booth was what I took to calling the aquarium — a glass-enclosed room where dozens of Gamespot employees toiled away tirelessly at computer keyboards, missing out on the show swirling around them to upload new pictures, movies, previews, etc. etc. Having to sit at a computer during E3 was bad enough, but being put on display for all sorts of passing attendees to gawk at struck me as a little unnecessary. Is GameSpot trying to show off the size and determination of their staff? Or did they just think their employees would work better with a little artificial light streaming in through the windows? Either way, I’d hide them from view next year.
IGN didn’t have a booth on the main show floor, but they did have a private room upstairs, right next to the general media room in fact. I peeked in as I passed by, but I was too timid to barge in and demand access to what was no doubt a mix of serious work and serious schmoozing.
IGN’s choice not to have a big, public booth like its major competitors has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it was probably easier for their editors to get work done away from the din of the show floor. On the other hand, IGN got far less publicity than its competitors by being hidden away from the main action. Give and take, I suppose.
I didn’t really check out G4’s booth, situated in the lobby just outside South Hall, until the show was technically over and I was waiting for the rest of my party to get out of a meeting with Microsoft. They were trumpeting the fact that their live coverage was going until 6 p.m. even though the show ended at 4 p.m. on Friday. An extremely long line of people (that didn’t seem to move) snaked around the elevated box of a stage waiting for a G4 T-shirt. To the other side, a crowd of stragglers played with a beach ball and cheered whenever the camera panned across them before or after a commercial break. During the taping, more than a few of the assembled called out some pretty embarrassing catcalls to X-Play’s Morgan Webb, which she wisely ignored. Makes you proud to be a gamer.
Poor Prima Games. They get an A for presentation, adorning their booth space in the front of West Hall with a lot of open space and beautiful racks of strategy guides for perusal. But you just can’t make people care. The glitz and glamour of the show floor was no match for the quiet, measured, publication-focused displays at the Prima booth. Heck, I don’t think they even had a video screen. Most of the people at the booth seemed to be cutting through to get somewhere else. My advice: either spice up your image or maybe try Kentia Hall next year.
More an extension of Nintendo’s massive West Hall booth than a booth of its own, the Nintendo Power area showcased the magazines new look and features with a roughly ten-foot tall, 20-foot wide tri-fold poster. In front of the display, an extremely cheerful booth attendant at a desk offered to scan attendees’ E3 badges for a free, three-month trial subscription to the newly redesigned magazine. The attendant was very upfront about the fact that you would be charged for a year of the mag unless you cancelled after the trial. It’s so refreshing when people are forthcoming about this kind of thing.
True, Yahoo’s booth was mainly devoted to promoting its game downloads and competition services, not its editorial content. But when pressed the attendants there did talk about Yahoo’s GameDomain, the section of the site devoted to original reviews and previews of upcoming releases. This section may be getting an overhaul of its own — from what I gleaned from booth attendants and journalists around the show, Yahoo will soon start licensing most of its editorial content from Gamespot and other similar providers. More on this as I find it out.
Other members of the video game press didn’t have full-fledged booths at the show, but that didn’t stop them from having a presence there. Established enthusiast magazines like Tips and Tricks and Game Informer gave out thousands of magazines at desk throughout the concourse, while attendees could pick up the latest copies of Wired, Nintendo Power, Video Games Transmedia, Game Developer and others from constantly restocked cubbies in the main
lobby (the shoving masses of people pushing to get these magazines at the beginning of each day is always amusing to watch). In Kentia Hall I also picked up a copy of Now Playing, a general entertainment magazine from theglobe.com that advertises a “first look [at the] next generation Xbox” on the cover.
And let’s not forget ShowDaily the oversized, stapled tabloid with content from Ziff Davis and an endorsement from the ESA… not to mention a handy map of the show floor and a ton of advertisements. These things were absolutely everywhere — a small army of attendants was handing them out, and a whole lot of people seemed to be taking them, glancing at them as they walked, then dropping them wherever it was convenient. Many attendees probably took it just for the map, then got rid of it as fast as possible. Personally, I found the bound E3 Exhibition Guide to be easier to carry and more durable as a map of the show floor.
So what do you think? Who had the best media booth at E3? Should organizations that are covering the show even be participating in it? Does having a big booth give these large organizations an unfair advantage in covering the show? Hit the comments link below with your thoughts.