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All Ready to Go

A few months after it was announced that E3 would undergo a major restructuring, IDG World Expo revealed a new event with the ESA's blessing--E for All. Carolyn Rauch, who worked on E3 for the ESA, joined IDG in June and is the show's vice president of event development. She spoke to about her goals, future plans, and the challenge of starting a new show from scratch. What was the impetus for E for All?

Rauch: E for All was created to be exactly what the title says--a show that's for everyone who is interested in or involved in the game industry.

It's open to gamers of all stripes, from the hardest core gamers to casual gamers as well as professionals involved in the industry--retailers, developers, media. Even those wanting to get into the games industry professionally can attend and be part of a game career seminar that can help them learn how to get a career going.

What's unique about it is that it literally offers something for everyone who has a passion for games.

Being open to the public differentiates you from E3 and other trade-only shows, but what about Game Developers Conference and other events already designed to help those wanting to get into the industry?

Game Developers Conference is much more professionally-oriented, for people who are deep into the game development industry.

Again, the way [E for All] differentiates itself is by the broadness of the audience in having something for everyone who is interested in games. Many of the other events...a lot of them are terrific events that are very successful...are more narrowly focused than E for All is.

One of the complaints about the old E3, from the business side, was that there were too many people there. It was hard for retailers to do business. Won't that make them hesitate about coming to E for All?

E for All is a very different event from E3. I don't think it will be an issue because it is such a different event.

E for All is very, very focused on the games themselves. There aren't going to be a lot of "bells and whistles." There aren't going to be a lot of huge booths and flashing lights. It's really going to be about direct access to the games for consumers and others who attend the event.

So, the retailers and industry people who attend know what they are getting into? They aren't going there necessarily to have high-level meetings as they did with E3...

Correct. It is a very different event.

You are using the same venue as the old E3 and a similar name, though, so I think you are going to invite comparisons to the old show.

I don't know if we are inviting a comparison, but that's inevitable.

Are you attracting the same exhibitors as E3 did?

We have a little more than 70 exhibitors participating. Some of them did participate in E3, and some of them did not. EA, Nintendo, THQ, 2K Games...quite a few of our exhibitors were also at E3.

Are you concerned with the lack of interest from some big publishers, such as Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft and others?

Well, I think that with any new event, or any new product, or any new business...anything that's new in the marketplace...there are going to be some people or companies that take a "wait and see" approach.

And I think that's fair. People want to know what they are buying into. But those people who understand what we are doing and who have signed up for the event are going to get a great experience that is going to give them direct access to consumers as well as their business partners that we believe can really make a difference in their marketing efforts.

So what are your specific goals for this year's show? Just getting it off the ground?

We are looking forward to a successful launch. We want to have a fun show. We want to make good on the core element of the show, which is to give direct access to gamers to the games they really love.

We have a lot of great products that will be launched at the show or will be previewed at the show before they are on the store shelves for the holiday.

We have a ton of activities. We have Major League Gaming tournaments going on. We have the game career seminars ongoing. We have a couple of Los Angeles professional basketball players who are coming to do a showdown with "Fatal1ty" playing NBA Live on Friday. We have a tremendous amount of activity going on, and we think it is going to be great fun for everyone.

Are you looking for E for All to become an annual event?

Absolutely. We're committed to it for the long run.

Will it stay in Los Angeles, or will this become a regional event where you might hold one on the east coast and in the midwest as well?

I think it is going to stay in LA. Whether there are additional versions of it around the country, we aren't sure yet. I wouldn't rule it out, let's say that.

Looking at registered attendees, do you know how many are coming from out of state? Do you know how many attendees you are expecting?

We don't yet. With consumer shows, so much of it is walk-in traffic that it is impossible to predict. We don't really have a good hard number because of that walk-in element.

We think, either way though, we are really positive about it. If it is really crowded, you'll get that show floor excitement and buzz, and if it is not as crowded, then the gamers who do come will get more time with the games they love.

Tokyo Game Show was held not too long ago. In Europe, there is the London Games Festival and other events overseas. Are you concerned at all that this time of year is too crowded with all the events going on? That you might not attract as much attention?

Again, our event is different because it is such a consumer-focused event. As you said, those events are overseas. So, you are looking at different groups of people from different parts of the world.

For us, it is not necessarily about attention, if that's what you are talking about. It's more about delivering a quality product to exhibitors and attendees.

Do you think that this is the best time of the year for the show because the holiday season is coming up and it provides an opportunity to showcase those games?

That is part of the reason we are doing it this year, because it is sort of a holiday preview. A lot of these games that people haven't seen before, but they want to buy, they can go try out before they buy them for their friends and kids.

There are so many factors that go into selecting show dates including, honestly, just when the venue is available. That has a huge amount to do with it. We need to figure out what those factors are. Right now we are planning to have the next show in late August of 2008.

What specific challenges have you faced in organising the event?

The biggest challenge has been, as I said, just the sheer fact that it is a new event, and that some of the companies are taking this "wait and see" approach.

That certainly hasn't stopped us. We have a tremendous array of companies participating in the event, and we think it is going to be terrific, but if I had to name a challenge, that would be it.

You have the indie games people who are going to be showing these incredibly cutting-edge, innovative games that you can't see anywhere else, because you can't buy them in the stores. Then you have small companies who are just breaking into the industry, you have the largest, established people. You have different cultural offshoots of the industry like the gaming tournaments.

It is going to be really amazing, I think.

Carolyn Rauch is E for All's vice president of event development. Interview by Mark Androvich.