E3: Smaller, less noisy, boring.


I just returned from E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Exposition) at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Perhaps I’m just getting too old but this year it was a pretty mild event.

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of L.A. I find many of the people I encounter to be very superficial. They smile and feign interest in your situation and then immediately switch to dour once your back is turned. Not everyone is this way but a surprising number seem to be. Of course being from the easily agitated Northeast doesn’t help this situation either so I guess it’s a bit of an obvious rub.

I ended up staying on Rodeo Drive. That’s what I get for booking late. God forbid you should need access to an ATM. If you ask where one is, everyone looks at you like, “An ATM? What sort of thing is that?” At home I have to practically keep an eye out so that I avoid driving into one every block. I guess these people just never actually need cash for anything. I also ran headlong into the mess that the L.A. taxi scene is. Call for one and you have about at 60% chance it’ll show up on time and about a 20% chance that it won’t show up at all. Every taxi also is equipped to take credit cards but just try and use one. Every cabbie will have an elaborate set of excuses as to why he can’t take it. “The reader is broken“, “The service is down“, etc. Finally two drivers explained that the cab company charges the driver 10% for any credit card transactions and another 5% if the cabbie wants their money right away (instead of having to wait a week). I have a bit of experience in the credit card business and I think this sort of thing is patently illegal. You can’t charge people extra for accepting credit cards and I guarantee you that NONE of these services is paying any more than 3% for their merchant accounts (likely much lower than even that). Anyway, back to the show itself….

The powers that be who run the show decided that three things would change for this years show. First, the “booth babes” would be reigned in and reduced. Second, the noise level would be reduced. Third, the booth sizes would be cut down.

The first issue is one I’ve been harping about from my very first visits to any computer convention. Look, I’m a typical healthy male and a married one at that. I’m not immune to the femine form but this was just ridiculous. For starters I’m insulted that people think I’ll buy their product more readily if there’s a half-naked bimbo in front of their booth. I also have to really wonder about the type of person that stands in line to have their picture taken with one of these women. I also think it’s entirely demeaning to the hard-working women in the industry who have to walk around surrounded by this sort of debauchery.

This year it was clear that a change had happened but it wasn’t as thorough as I would have thought it would be. The booth-babes were still quite prevalent. It’s just not a positive move for anyone and it really should come to an end.

The second issue dealt with a genuine problem. The show was getting progressively louder every single year with one booth constantly trying to outplay another booth in the volume game. This year the floor was dramatically less noisy. You could even have a two-way conversation on a cell phone for the first time in years.

The third item was the reduction in booth sizes which I suspect was done to allow more companies into the prime areas and thus generating more revenue for the expo.

The end result, for me, resulted in a very subdued show. It just felt tired. The volumes were all equal, the booths lacked the atmosphere and detail of past years and the layout of most booths were so similar that they just pretty much ran into one another. 10 white kiosks, with LCD displays next to 8 red kiosks with LCD displays from another company.

Another major turn-off for me was the overwhelming number of booths dominated by mobile phone games. I flew 3,500 miles to see Pac Man reduced to a 2″ screen and played with tiny phone buttons. Wonderful.

It’s time that this show found another venue to bring the life back to it. Put it in a building that can really let the exhibitors spread their wings and let loose with the creativity. That is, after all, what the show is supposed to be about.

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