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E3 2009 postmortem with ESA CEO Mike Gallagher


ESA CEO Mike Gallagher's first "real" E3 was a success. We briefly spoke with him on the concourse from the South to West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center on the last day of the show, but with some more time to decompress and receive feedback, it seemed like the right time to circle back around and see if he was still feeling good about how things went. We asked the executive about how the post-show feedback is going, the chance of loosening up the attendance a little more and if there are any plans yet to make the show public -- oh yeah, and is Activision coming back to the ESA?

Joystiq: On the last day of E3 2009 we had a quick chat in the hallway and you stated that the feedback you'd received was extremely positive and the show floor was "full but still navigable." Now that you've had a week to decompress and receive more feedback, what's your current take on the show?

Mike Gallagher: I have a combination of pride and excitement right now. We set out to reflect and amplify to the world our industry's growth, energy, and vitality and I am incredibly proud we achieved that goal. I am also filled with excitement over the high-impact news announced at the E3 Expo by the companies that make up the industry. We have a lot of great titles to look forward to this year, along with some pretty exciting hardware previews and announcements.

This is the golden age of computer and video games. I say that because more than ever before, we are seeing new interfaces, new distribution models to consumers, and new IP that will reenergize our industry's growth as the year continues. And this growth and continued innovation and creativity comes not at the end of a console cycle, but rather when developers are still harnessing the full processing power of the current systems, leading us to believe that games will continue their upward path of compelling storylines, engaging characters, and epic visuals.

The challenge for us at the ESA now is two-fold. One, continue build on the momentum created by the E3 Expo and educate new market segments about our industry's cultural and economic significance, but also to begin planning for the 2010 E3 Expo.

Anything that you would like to change for next year?

That is what we are determining right now. Surveys already went out to attendees, including media, industry analysts, and retailers, to determine what they liked about the event, what they would like changed, and how we can ensure that the E3 Expo continues to be the launchpad and focal point for major industry announcements and business. I will say that I heard the phrases "you got it right" and "this feels like the right balance" quite a bit.

Well, we heard from some folks that they wouldn't mind opening the floodgates just a little more. Thoughts?

That is one thing we are looking at - did we have both the right number of attendees and the key players who are conducting the business of the industry? Early feedback is that all of key players were there, but also folks were able to have conversations on the showfloor without screaming, that the titles on the floor and in suites could be played without rush, and that attendees could navigate the floor and halls of the LACC. The quality of the show experience is more important to the industry than the quantity. It is about the balance between demonstrating the high-energy and buzz that is the video game industry and providing a navigable and enjoyable platform for high value meetings amongst the industry's publishers, investors, retailers, and other leaders in the ecosystem.

Any plans for any type of public E3-type event by the ESA? Could E3 2010 have a public component?

Right now we are in the early stages of planning and will make more detailed announcements about the 2010 E3 Expo later in the year. But remember, this is the most publicly accessible E3 Expo we have ever had. Numerous media outlets provided tremendous coverage on cable television. The press briefings were streamed on the Internet, and ESA employed cutting edge Web 2.0 technologies to put consumers "in the game" faster and with more detail than ever before..

If there were a public component to E3 2010, what would you imagine it being like?

I appreciate the intent, but I cannot answer hypothetical questions.

With E3 2010 locked and loaded for June 15-17, what's the plan for next year? A copy/paste from this year?

Not at all -- each year things subtly change, whether it is noticeable to the average attendee or not. What makes the E3 Expo special is that it adapts, grows and evolves every year. Some changes are incredibly well-received, others are not. The important thing is that, as an association, we be open to change, feedback and adapt to our exhibitors and attendees' wants. In that sense, we are actually reflective to the how dynamic our industry is-all the time adapting to suit rapid innovation.

Have you talked to Activision about rejoining the ESA again after the show? What was their response?

ESA membership is open to all computer and video game publishers. It is our desire to reflect and represent our industry's broad diversity. Bringing on eight new publishers over the past few months is a tangible outcome of the ESA's focused effort on membership recruitment.

Activision is a great company and we certainly would welcome it back so it can receive the full value of ESA membership, including access to proprietary research, E3 Expo member benefits, and inclusion in our anti-piracy work. In addition, we are very engaged in targeting and defining incentives for the industry on the state level, and defining the playing field for the video games of tomorrow by working with policy leaders on issues such as broadband policy, new standards for protection of IP, and opening up foreign markets. I am sure the leadership at Activision has much to share in that process and we would welcome them back. In the meantime, we have a job to do leading this industry and we are going to do it.

You had mentioned previously that you'd seen CEOs roaming the E3 show floor -- that they weren't just hiding out in suites upstairs like in past years. What were other encouraging things you saw on the show floor?

Apart from the creativity and originality that were on display in the booth designs, I was encouraged by the rapt attention that the games on display commanded and the innovation and cutting-edge entertainment being shown. It was encouraging to see the games generating buzz that will help propel our industry to another record-breaking sales year.

Now that you've survived a "real E3." How you feeling about next year?

I am feeling really good about next year's event. 2009 was a "come back" year, both within the industry and to the broader non-game playing world. Both communities were looking to see what this year's E3 Expo would look like and what news would come from it. I think we proved that successful events, even in down economies, are possible.

The fact is, however that the credit for the strength of the show is fundamentally owed to our member companies with their extraordinary support and vision that helped bring about this year's event. Also, I want to thank everyone that came to this year's event. The economy is tough. Budgets are tight, but for four days in LA, our industry provided a much needed shot of adrenalin to the world. I realize that it would not have been possible without the support from retailers, media, industry analysts, developers and all the others who came.

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