Analysis: What Can We Expect From E For All?

With the 2008 E For All Expo taking place later this week, the official exhibitor list has revealed a formal presence from just three major publishers - so what will the show be all abou
With the 2008 E For All Expo taking place later this week, the official exhibitor list has revealed a formal presence from just three major publishers - though the organizers are compensating with other events, including an 'Education Zone' and the L.A. Children's Film Festival. The conference, held at the L.A. Convention Center and organized by tech giant IDG, has struggled this year in competition with Seattle's rapidly expanding Penny Arcade Expo, which has seemingly had geek cred on its side, and logged 58,500 attendees at its late August event. For example, when E For All announced heavily merchandised pro gamer Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel as a special guest at the show, Penny Arcade's Gabe revealed that Fatal1ty would not be at PAX, adding: "Seriously, if he even tries to come we'll kick him out." In addition, a set of wallpapers promoting E For All were roundly satirized by the Penny Arcade webcomic creators, with a shark-themed E For All effort trumped by a slightly sarcastic 'space dinosaur with a gun' wallpaper. Of course, this isn't to say that E For All couldn't rise above to success. But it appears that of the three major hardware platform holders, only Microsoft is officially paying for a booth at the event this year, setting up an Xbox 360/Games For Windows Pavilion. Sony and Nintendo, the latter of which participated in last year's E For All Expo, will not have their own areas at this year's event. (The event is advertising Nintendo-published games including Mario Kart and Wii Fit to be playable, but these appear to be hosted at third-party booths such as Target.) In addition, Konami, THQ, and 2K Games will not return to the public gaming event either, despite the last two maintaining a presence at August's Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. Several other studios -- including Activision Blizzard, Namco Bandai, and Sega -- attended the rival convention, but do not intend to exhibit at E For All Expo 2008. In fact, the matrix of comparative attendees last updated by Joystiq/BigDownload in late August appears to still largely hold sway, although Ubisoft has decided to attend E For All since that article was written, a definite win for organizers. Therefore, a handful of upcoming titles will be available for attendees to play prior to their North American releases, particularly Ubisoft's Far Cry 2, Tom Clancy's End War, and Shaun White Snowboarding -- and Microsoft Game Studios' Gears of War 2 will be at the World Cyber Games booth. (The contents of Microsoft's Pavilion are not specified on the E For All website.) The remainder of the expo's 41 listed booths are mostly dedicated to MMORPG companies, colleges, gaming gear, and energy beverages. As a result, the product premieres are largely food/beverage and peripheral-related. Nonetheless, there are a couple of minor show debuts -- Signature Devices are debuting DS games including C.O.R.E, Black Sigil & Air Conflicts and the PC MMO Beyond Protocol from Dark Sky Entertainment will make its first appearance there. With such a relatively low turnout from major publishers and developers, the organizers have turned to alternatives to fill out the space in recent weeks. Earlier announcements included a Game Career Seminar event from Gamasutra parent company and GDC organizer Think Services, but more recently, a number of peripheral add-ons have attempted to bulk out the show. Examples include All Games Network's "Meet, Greet and Beat The Champs", which features classic arcade experts on games such as Donkey Kong, Spy Hunter and Missile Command, and 'The League of Legendary Gamers', with more pro gamers helping to collect food for the Los Angeles Food Bank. Also included are an E for All Education Zone, which 600 Los Angeles Unified School District high-school students will attend, an expanded IndieCade independent games section, and perhaps most strangely, the fourth annual Los Angeles International Children's Film Festival, which is now holding one of its three segments at the show. Though E For All is clearly well-meaning, its broader, scattershot style contrasts with the geek chic of Penny Arcade Expo, which lured artists such as Jonathan Coulton to give concerts, and is associated with the popular web comic. Yet other than Fatal1ty, the other celebrity prominently mentioned at the conclusion of today's E For All press release is "Hollywood Yates, best known as 'Wolf' on NBC's American Gladiators." As such, it's unclear -- attendee numbers pending -- whether E For All could continue to support itself in upcoming years without larger support from the major game publishers. Gamasutra has asked IDG representatives for commentary on any other unreleased titles that might be showcased at E For All, and will follow up with an in-person show report when the event opens later this week.

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