Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blizzard and E3: No Love Lost

Another E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) has come and gone without any participation from Blizzard. Though Activision was well represented at the popular gaming trade show, the PC juggernaut Blizzard decided to once again save it all for their own event, Blizzcon.

The first Blizzcon was back in 2005 and was attended by just over 8,000 of Blizzards closest fans. The initial event was enough of a success to two warrant holding two more, one in 2007 and the other in 2008. Blizzcon 2008 attracted nearly double the crowd drawn only three years earlier. A third Blizzcon is set for this coming August and it is all but certain ticket sales will meet, if not surpass, those from last years event.

In contrast, E3 has been occuring yearly since 1995. E3 2005 drew in more than 70,000 attendees, but a switch to an invitation only format and more limited offerings sharply cut subsequent offerings. In 2007 only 10,000 guests made the trip and in 2008 that number was slashed to approximately 5,000. This year, however, in an attempt to reclaim its prior prominence in the video game world, E3 grew by leaps and bounds attracting an estimated 41,000 attendees.

Looking to the past, it seems as though Blizzard was downright brilliant in abandoning E3. Format changes and bad venues nearly sunk the entire show and, in 2007 and 2008, Blizzard was actually able to draw more fans to its own event than the entire industry managed to drum up for E3. Looking forward, however, the days of Blizzard dodging E3 may be over.

First and foremost, it is very clear that E3 is on the way back to prominence. This year's event was a success by nearly every measure and it is safe to assume that there will not be a reversion to the failed format experiments of the past. Second, it is almost certain that Activision would like nothing more than to parade its shiny new gem before retailers and the gaming press. What is the point of having a hot new girlfriend if she refuses to go to the prom with you? (get your heads out of the gutter...)

I would imagine we will see many more Blizzcons in the future, but I would suspect it will no longer be Blizzards exclusive unveiling party, but instead a gathering of Blizzard fans to talk shop, get goodies, and compete. I would be incredibly surprised if Blizzard were not at next years E3 unveiling the next World of Warcraft expansion rather than saving it for Blizzcon. Unfortunately, only time will tell.

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