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The History of E3: 2006 Update

Monday, April 24, 2006

The 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo -- also known as E3 -- will be the twelfth consecutive annual video game trade show. The largest of its kind, E3 is attended by thousands of industry professionals and is the platform for hundreds of entertainment product unveilings every year. The E3 Expo is a trade show in which over 400 companies come together to showcase the products they are bringing to the market in the next 6 to 12 months. It is considered by many to be the single most important international event for the marketing of video and computer games.

Nintendo Revolution, DS at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo

The show takes place for three days mid-May at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It is known to the outside world as the place where new games and game systems are announced. It also serves as a barometer for those attempting to forecast the future direction of the constantly evolving game industry.

Growing Up

As video game company offerings began to surpass Consumer Electronic Show (CES) capacity in the mid 90s, the need for a major standalone video game convention became ever more apparent. The Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) realized the demand and in 1995 organized the first Electronic Entertainment Expo. The IDSA is made up of a large number of influential companies such as Nintendo, Sony, Capcom, and many other big and small names. Having a vested interest in seeing their products showcased to the public, E3 easily became a de facto place of attendance. In June 2003, the organization renamed itself to the "Entertainment Software Association" (ESA).

"I would love to take credit for it, but the truth of the matter is that everybody wanted to do it in the first place. The industry was a stepchild at the CES show and really wasn't treated as a first class exhibitor. It was clear to everyone that the industry had come of age, could easily support a show of their own, and in fact needed a show of their own."-Douglas Lowenstein (president of IDSA)

The ESA is the owner & organizer of the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Formed in 1994, the ESA was a trade association that represented companies that published video and computer games. To this day, it represents the game industry's interest in Washington with policy issues, intellectual property rights, and content regulation. In addition, the organization runs an anti-piracy program on a worldwide basis and protects software copyrights on the Internet. The ESA is also credited for creating the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) in 1994.

E3 is a "trade show," meaning it is open only to members of the video game and entertainment industry. Distributors, developers, publishers, media, job hopefuls, and celebrities all file into huge caverns to see the latest in video game entertainment.

Descending onto the E3 floor is a lot like placing a child in an unsupervised candy store. Suddenly you're in the middle of a game universe where lights flash, game voices surround you and everything is four times as big as it should be. Companies with games and technology to show go all out to draw attention to their booths, giving away T-shirts and prizes and setting up incredibly elaborate booths. Some of the biggest exhibitors, Sony and Nintendo, create whole worlds - living and breathing - inside their booths, large enough to lose yourself in. These companies make a significant investment in renting out floor space. The prices can range from $1 million up to $8 or $9 million for some of the larger companies.

The vastness of the booths can be an indication of just how big a business games have become and ultimately how much money is at stake. In a now $10 billion industry, there is a lot at stake. The giant marketing push and amazing booths makes this fact blatantly clear.

Just as we've seen the industry mature over the years, so have gamers. Games, which were once considered a child's past-time, now see grown men and women in business suits eagerly traversing the show floors to consume this software with curious hands and eyes. The first generation of hard-core gamers - those who grew up playing Mario Bros. - are becoming adults and entering the work force, most often enough settling within the gaming industry. The phenomenon of "booth babes" is another indication of the "growing-up" of video games. Women and sometimes even men are being hired to tend booths and wear the bare minimum in an attempt to subconciously draw attention to their booth's games and technology.

This magical show has only been a decade in the making. For those curious to know the history, here's a background of the most significant events at the past shows.

1995

The first ever Electronic Entertainment Expo was held in Los Angeles from May 11 - 13, 1995, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Two towering glass and steel pavilions transcend the architectural and aesthetic magesty of the convention center. Remodled in 1999, today the Los Angeles Convention Center is one of the largest and finest convention and exhibition facilities in the US. The location contains 870,000 square feet of exhibit space, 64 meeting rooms, spacious lobbies, restaurants and food courts. The location covers fifty-four acres of land near the central business districts of Los Angeles. E3 is said to bring approximately $20 million a year to the Los Angeles economy.

The convention center is one of the few remaining in the nation large enough to host the event. The convention center is split into different halls as pictured below. The primary halls are Concourse, Kentia, Petree, South, and West halls.

The overly crowded South Hall has been the domain of Microsoft, Acclaim, and other major third-party companies over the years. Sega, Nintendo and Sony have featured their booths in the West Hall convention center. Kentia Hall is where you will find the smaller game companies and retailers. It's been called the "ghetto" of E3 by some which probably isn't justified. There are a lot of unique things to be found in Kentia Hall for those willing to look. Concourse is the connection to West Hall and South Hall. In here you can find IGN Entertainment's headquarters as well as other media publications.

This inaugural E3 in 1995, was the United State's first real look at the PlayStation. Sony made a huge impression at the show with its rumored $4 million booth and surprise appearance by Michael Jackson. The PlayStation was crowned the highlight of the show, besting Sega's Saturn and Nintendo's laughable Virtual Boy.

The launch software for the console was displayed, with WipeOut, Namco's Tekken and Ridge Racer drawing the most praise. Sony also announced the unit would not be bundled with Ridge Racer, as was previously assumed. Overall, Sony made a very formidable showing at E3.

Nintendo announced the delay of the public debut of the Nintendo 64 (codenamed: Ultra 64 at the time) until the November Shoshinkai in Japan and also delayed the sale of the console until April, 1996. Sega and Sony responded to this by announcing the release date and price for their consoles. On May 10, Sony announced the American release of the Sony PlayStation for September 9, at a price of $299. On May 11, Sega one-upped Sony with the surprising declaration that the Saturn hit North America the day before. The next-generation race had already commenced, with a naive Nintendo trailing behind. In retrospect, Nintendo had missed a critical launch window.

Nintendo felt it had nothing to worry about at E3, feeling sufficient with the announcement of its "Dream Team" Nintendo 64 developers. While Sony and Sega had hundreds of developers, Nintendo had chosen only ten. These included Paradigm Entertainment, Williams, Spectrum Holobyte, Sierra Online, DMA, Rare, Gametek, GTE Interactive Media, Angel Studios and Acclaim.

Also at E3 1995, Nintendo hyped the release of its Virtual Boy. The Super Nintendo also put on an extravagant show, showcasing the sequel to Donkey Kong Country and Square's Chrono Trigger and Secret of Evermore, among other titles.


1996

After the show proved to be a success the year before, another E3 was held from May 16 - 18, 1996, in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Over 500 companies demonstrated more than 1700 games at this year's show.

The largest surprise of the show was Sony dropping the price of its PlayStation console to $199. Sony displayed such titles as Tekken 2 and Crash Bandicoot. As a knee-jerk reaction to Sony's announcement, Sega also dropped the price of its Saturn system to $200 - exactly half the price of the system when it was launched in 1995.

Also notable was Nintendo's next-generation console, Nintendo 64. The launch of its new Nintendo 64 system was only a few months away, and playable demos of several new games were available. With its analog controllers and Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, Mortal Kombat 64, Cruisin' USA, Wave Race, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and Goldeneye 007 all playable, the console was a show hit.

Nintendo announced that the Nintendo 64 would be available in the U.S. on September 30th with one controller for $250, with more controllers in varied colors at $30 each, memory cartridges at $10, and games $50-$80. Games not seen but Nintendo promised would be available by the end of 1996 included Body Harvest, Tetrisphere, Buggie Boogie, Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, Blast Corps, and Super Mario Kart. Nintendo declared that before 1997, three million Nintendo 64 cartridges and a million consoles would be shipped.

Nintendo also introduced its Game Boy Pocket, a handheld only 35 percent smaller than the original with a suggested retail price of $60. Games highlighted included Kirby's Block Ball, Donkey Kong Land 2, and Tetris Attack.

Nintendo also announced a price drop for its Virtual Boy to $100, with games around $30-$40. Games on display included Dragon Hopper and Bound High.


1997

Held from June 19 - 21, the Electronic Entertainment Expo was moved this year to the Georgia World Congress Center and Georgia Dome due to size constraints. Attendance this year reached 37,000 individuals. The Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) claimed that 486 exhibiting companies filled a space equivalent to 35 football fields with over 1,500 new titles on display. The computer and video game market forecast by years-end was $5.3 billion.

Having already released its Nintendo 64 console, Nintendo showcased its upcoming titles. Starfox 64 was announced to be the first title to support the new Nintendo 64 Rumble Pak. Rare's Goldeneye was playable. In addition, long-anticipated sequels F-Zero and The Legend of Zelda were shown on video only. Nintendo also announced it would be charging a lower royalty for third parties to release games on its Nintendo 64 console.

Sony's PlayStation once again had the upper-hand, showcasing titles such as Final Fantasy 7, Crash Bandicoot 2, Tomb Raider II, and Metal Gear Solid. Already struggling to put up a fight, Sega showed its Sega Saturn of which it announced a price reduction a few weeks prior to the show.


1998

Held again in Atlanta, Georgia, the 1998 E3Expo displayed more than 1,600 new games. The entire show this year took place in the world congress Center, rather than being spread out between the Congress Center and Georgia Dome as the year before. This was because, in a show that covered 8 or 900,000 square feet of exhibit space, one couldn't guarantee the same amount of traffic in every corner of the show.

The gaming industry was in a transition period this year - those unable to handle the coding of 3-dimensional games were pushed to the wayside and the first mumblings of the next-generation of consoles crept into gamer's minds. The E3Expo itself was also in a transistion. In fact, the next year's show would be announced to return to Los Angeles. The gaming industry this year had grown to nearly $7 billion in sales.

Sega debuted its next-generation console DreamCast (codenamed: Katana).

The PlayStation had an exceptional showing with Square's Final Fantasy 8 and Konami's debut of Silent Hill. Nintendo showed its 64DD Drive one last time. In addition, Nintendo previewed The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time one last time before its winter release. Shown on video was Perfect Dark.


1999

After a brief two years in Georgia, the show moved back to a now expanded LA Convention Center. With a contract signed until 2012, the Electronic Entertainment Expo has found a home for years to come.

Back in Los Angeles, over 1,900 new games were on display.

Sony's PlayStation 2 created the most show floor buzz, even though there was only one modest, public display of the unit.

Nintendo's 64 was putting up a last stand, showcasing Resident Evil 2, Perfect Dark, Donkey Kong 64 and Jet Force Gemini. Silicon Knights' Eternal Darkness made its first showing as well. Nintendo and LucasArts also had a game on display based on the upcoming Star Wars movie, Episode 1. Star Wars Episode I Racer was demonstrated on huge video screens and was a big hit with attendees. At its pre-E3 media briefing, Nintendo chairman Howard Lincoln revealed the first information about Nintendo's next-generation console (codenamed: Dolphin) including the announcement of partnerships with IBM and others.

Sega showed Shenmue for its unreleased Dreamcast console. This would be the last hype before the console's release later that year.


2000

Held on May 11 - 13 this year, over 62,000 people descended on the Los Angeles convention center to see over 430 exhibitors and 1,250 new products.

Sega's Dreamcast was the undeniable hit of the show with games such as Jet Grind Radio and Samba de Amigo. Sales however, didn't agree with journalists' praise. Nevertheless, Sega was determined to let its Dreamcast go out with a bang.

The PlayStation 2, in its offical North American preview, made an impressive showing as well. A video of Metal Gear Solid 2 had attendees sitting down in crowds to watch. Nintendo also did well with its Nintendo 64 showing off games such as Conker's Bad Fur Day, Eternal Darkness and Perfect Dark.


2001

Held on May 16 - 19, the show drew more than 62,000 interactive entertainment professionals from more than 70 countries. N-Sider was there. In fact, this was our first E3 show. This year, the U.S. video game industry sold $6.35 billion in software alone.

At the E3Expo 2001, there was an intriuging keynote panel discussion about the console wars with panelists Robbie Bach - senior vice president of Microsoft's game division; Peter Main - Nintendo of America executive vice president sales and marketing; and Kazuo Hirai - Sony of America president and chief operating officer.

One of the most anticipated video game trade events of all time, this year's E3 saw the true unveilings of both Nintendo's GameCube and Microsoft's Xbox. We also saw Sega's first time as a third party presenter.

The highlight of the event was Nintendo's GameCube console. Nintendo's booth was the most populated on the show floor with games such as Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II, Luigi's Mansion, Pikmin, and Super Smash Bros. Melee all playable.

Xbox had games such as Oddworld: Munch's Oddyssee and Halo. PlayStation 2, on the other hand, had the impressive Metal Gear Solid 2, Silent Hill 2 and many more.


2002

Held on May 22 - 24, the E3Expo experience was exceptional, yet still notably less than prior years. A May 21 press release from Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn, issued in conjunction with the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau, stated that the E3 show has been signed through 2012.

N-Sider attended its second E3 this year. You can read about it in the N-Sider @ E3 article. This E3 brought the announcement that Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo president of over 50 years, would retire.

Nintendo conquered the show with the debut of Metroid Prime, Super Mario Sunshine, Resident Evil 0, Phantasy Star Online V. 1 & 2 and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The Xbox and PlayStation 2 had impressive showings as well. The Xbox featured games such as Blinx: The Time Sweeper and the PlayStation 2 had Square's Kingdom Hearts.


2003

The 2003 E3 once again took place from May 14 - 16 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The 2003 show sold approximately 515,000 net square feet of exhibit space, the largest amount of space sold since 2000. Over 60,000 people attended the show.

This was N-Sider's 3rd year attending E3. Nintendo had an admirable showing with titles such as Mario Kart: Double Dash, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, F-Zero, Star Fox, and the surprise showings of Geist and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes. The Nintendo pre-show however, left many underwhelmed by the company's focus on "connectivity" and a ten minute presentation of Pac Man.

Meanwhile, Sony made the shocking announcement that it would enter the handheld gaming market with its PSP.

Microsoft on the other hand, showcased a video of Halo 2 and also also had Rare's trio of titles playable - Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Conker Live & Uncut, and Kameo: Element of Power.

You can read about the show in more detail by checking out staff articles: Glen Bayer @ E3 2K3.


2004

The 2004 Electronic Entertainment Expo was a momentous show for Nintendo. Nintendo unveiled its new mascot in the form of Reginald Fils-Aime, its North American Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

"My name is Reggie. I'm about kicking ass, I'm about taking names and we're about making games," he proclaimed and the crowd fell immediately in love.

Nintendo's press conference showing was one of its most impressive ever. Nintendo debuted its Nintendo DS system -- a "developers' system" that allowed new forms of gameplay, design and expression through two screens, touch, voice recognition and wireless play. Demos of Super Mario 64x4 and Metroid Prime Hunters led the march. Nintendo was also very forthcoming with new games for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo GameCube -- these included such titles as Advance Wars: Under Fire, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, Resident Evil 4, Odama and The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Nintendo's most spectacular announcement however, and perhaps the news of the show, was the video of a new realistic Legend of Zelda for GameCube.

Meanwhile, Sony made a splash with the debut of its new handheld, the Sony PSP. Microsoft also had a big announcement of its own with the arrival of Electronic Arts' games on Xbox Live. Valve's impressive PC game Half-Life 2 was also the talk of the show.


2005

The 2005 show was touted as one of the biggest ever -- all floor space sold out as early as March. This was N-Sider's fifth year attending.

The atmosphere on the floor was recognizably somber this year. Microsoft unveiled its next-generation Xbox 360 console touting games such as Perfect Dark Zero and Project Gotham Racing. Sony also showcased its PlayStation 3 during its pre-show conference with video demonstrations of Final Fantasy VII and Killzone.

Nintendo meanwhile, took a more strategic approach. Besides a short teaser clip of Metroid Prime 3, Nintendo opted to not show any gameplay or video footage. Instead, they showed a small, stylish unit and talked about how there must be something "more" to games than graphics. They furthered this message with "non-games" such as Electroplankton and Nintendogs for the Nintendo DS. Whereas competitors blew the roof off most of the details surrounding their consoles, Nintendo chose carefully what it would reveal. One detail of which we found was that Nintendo would offer its entire catalog of retro games from the NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 on the Revolution Virtual Console service.

There was less excitement on the show floor than prior years. This was especially odd since it was the introduction of a new generation. It was speculated that this feeling originated from the fact that many felt the jump in graphics failed to make the same impact of prior generations. Games were looking more Hollywood but not necessarily any more fun. But still, most attendees held hope for the future.


2006
Excited for E3 2006? We'll bring you the latest updates directly from the show floor as well as direct you to coverage around the 'net. For those interested in following the show day-by-day, a schedule of the events is provided below. (Times are in Pacific Standard Time.) For those who want to take home a memory of the show, be sure to check out the N-Sider.com E3 2006 DVD.

Tuesday, May 9 - Nintendo PreShow
9:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Wednesday, May 10
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Thursday, May 11
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Friday, May 12
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM


The competition between the three console juggarnauts is heating up and a wealth of incredible games will be the result. Will we see the first glimpse of Mario for Revolution? Will we see an online capable Super Smash Bros? Regardless of what this E3 brings, you can expect it to go down in memory as one of the best yet. Keep an eye on N-Sider to bring you the latest in news and features.


Source: E3Expo.com, GameCubicle.com, Dreamstation.cc, Multimediator.com, GameSpy.com