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In-Depth: E For All's Strange Mixed Bag

Visiting the recent E For All Expo at the LA Convention Center, Gamasutra found quirky peripherals, mouse pad-friendly food and championship gaming -- but not a lot to suggest that this "hodgepodge collection under one roof" was a clear success, with its
[Visiting the recent E For All Expo at the LA Convention Center, Gamasutra's reporter on the scene found quirky peripherals, mouse pad-friendly food and championship gaming -- but not a lot to suggest that this "hodgepodge collection under one roof" was a clear success, with its crucial lack of publisher support.] With the dissolution of the old E3, gamers and industry heads have wondered what will take the place of the former mega-convention and industry rite of passage. While a scaled-down E3 now caters to gaming press, consumers have few options left to sample the newest games and gear. There’s the fan favorite Penny Arcade Expo, the three-day marathon of tournaments in Seattle. And then there’s E for All, the consumer convention that takes place at the LA Convention Center -- E3's former stomping grounds. At first glance, E for All might be interpreted as the consumer E3. But it doesn’t quite make it. E for All took place October 3-5. In its second year, it's thought to have been smaller than the year previous. Run by IDG, E for All was an enthusiastic but small con that attracted a hardcore gamer audience. It was a showcase of quirky peripherals, hardware demos, and convention-wide competitions. Though it seemed sparsely attended, that’s not to say there were empty booths. Attendees still had to wait to play. But the event would have felt less anemic had it taken place in a smaller, denser space. The future success of E for All will depend on whether IDG can get the support of game publishers and gamers to organize fan-driven events as PAX enjoys. With the exception of Microsoft and Ubisoft, the event lacked presence from publishers -- noticeably from Nintendo and Sony. THQ and Konami exhibited last year, but decided not return. It was not hard to see why. E for All was not well-publicized, and neither is it a good value for consumers. While attendees could play against the PMS clan and demo current titles, the admission price -- $75 for three days -- is too steep for an event with too few previews of upcoming games. Moreover, the price jumps to $150 for attendees who also want to visit the Game Career Seminar. Interestingly, the highlight of E for All was the showcase of pro gaming talent. While spectators on bleachers watched internationally-assembled Counter-Strike teams, while players yelled in Portuguese and German. At "Meet, Greet, and Beat the Champs," attendees could compete against gaming masters such as Marvel vs Capcom 2 fighter Justin Wong, and Donkey Kong contender and "King of Kong" hero Steve Wiebe. General impressions were that the event was scattered in content and organization -- there was no schedule of events, and no help desk. And the collection of exhibitors was inconsistent and seemingly random. Most featured booths sold non-essential gamer gear. Gamer Grub offered samples of tasty "no crumbs on the keyboard" snacks in cylindrical containers, intended to be chugged like canned beverages. An energy drink called Mana Potion had attendees run on a real treadmill through virtual Azeroth. Interestingly, the largest peripheral booth featured the accessory line branded around professional gamer Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel. It also featured a mini-obstacle course with a plastic ball pit and tricycles. Other retailers sold DDR accessories, a strange handheld NES player, and old import games. However, the event should have featured an organized retail aisle offering better-curated gamer paraphernalia and games. Simultaneously playing upstairs from the main hall was the Los Angeles Children’s Film Festival. While the connection between gaming and children’s films has yet to be seen, the festival showed solid children’s programming. One of the bigger films, "Delivery," had cameos by popular sci-fi writers Orson Scott Card and Harlan Ellison. On the educational front, resources for aspiring game designers included the Game Career Seminar and representatives from universities with game design programs. Attendees who wanted to take the "SAT of games" were able to try the Gamer Aptitude Test at the All Games booth. A Brain Age of twitch reflexes, the Test was developed by Championship Gaming Series to gauge the skills of would-be cyber athletes. While the most crowded booths were the Gears of War 2 corner and the Guitar Hero World Tour stage, the indie game section had noteworthy contenders. Independent games festival IndieCade featured talent from universities and game studios from around the world. One notable game was the well-crafted, Edward Gorey-inspired platformer The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. Created by USC Interactive Media students, the game is currently being acquired by a major publisher. While the most exhibitors were interesting in their own right, E for All was a hodgepodge collection under one roof. If the event is able to survive into the coming years, it needs to model itself more coherently and position itself more competitively to gain real success. E for All should offer a wider variety of retail and fan-organized events -- and, most importantly, a stronger game publisher presence.

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