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Q&A: Gamecock's Wilson Evangelizes His Alt.E3

So the ESA's upcoming, much smaller E3 Media & Business Summit excludes many indies due to size restrictions - but what can they do? Naturally, Gamecock CEO Mike Wilson has a plan, and talks to Gamasutra about the E-I-E-I-O mini-fest he plans for the indi
So the ESA's upcoming, much smaller E3 Media & Business Summit excludes many indies due to size restrictions - but what can they do? Naturally, Gamecock CEO Mike Wilson has a plan, and talks to Gamasutra about the E-I-E-I-O mini-fest he plans for the indie publisher (and possibly other companies) to run alongside July's event. So what's the backstory here? Scheduled to take place from July 11-13, the E3 Media & Business Summit will play host to just 32 companies, relatively small compared to the hundreds of developers and publishers showcased during previous years. In response to this, the recently established independent game publisher Gamecock Media Group, formed by the rebels behind the '90s equivalent of United Artists, Gathering Of Developers, recently confirmed plans to try to organize Expo for Interactive Entertainment: Independent and Original - Fun Fest 2007, an independent summit to run in parallel to E3. We chatted to Gamecock CEO and founding member Mike Wilson on the proposed event, which is currently confirmed to include Gamecock itself, and is looking at expanding to cover other smaller indie firms. So, what are your plans for this 'alternate E3', exactly? Well, just like back in the day, we had planned to do something outside the new show, free of the constraints and general bad vibes of the regimented suitfest o' sequels. The fact that they never even invited us wasn't exactly a surprise, but did make it all the sweeter, I must admit. And then when they also "uninvited" appx 370 of last year's 400 or so registered companies... well, we started thinking about doing something bigger that could involve some of our other friends and competitors, large and small, that the ESA has deemed unnecessary for their conference. All we have locked down for now is the Gamecock presence we had already secured, while we are working hard to secure more space for others perhaps less experienced and adept and putting on a proper E3 sideshow circus. But, hey... even if its just Gamecock and our partner developers, we'll have 4x the number of independent developers as the ESA "show" and 100% original games. Plus the levels of fun our industry friends and foes have come to expect. So your proposed expo is still in the planning stages, then? We may not be able to secure a proper location for the grander vision in time for this year... and well, next year there probably won't be a need to do it alongside what's left of "E3", so we'll see. Some iteration of this little dream will exist soon enough, probably put on by someone smarter than me and not trying to run a new publishing company at the same time. But don't count the big show out just yet... we are hard on the case with some very smart people who make things happen, and we've already had letters of support and requests to participate from nearly 2 dozen of the companies excluded from the "summit." Why have independent developers such as yourselves been left out of the restructured E3? Well, if it was the big publishers who put the kibosh on the old E3, then you can bet it was them who set the standards for this one. So why not make it an elitist, old boys' club kinda thing? This, after all, is the only type of game these guys really care about... the ones played at country clubs and on Wall Street. They really should have just made it into a polo match and called it a day. Part of the reason why E3 was restructured was the tremendous money involved by studios to participate in an event of that magnitude. Are you proposing something of that scale, but for independent developers? Errrr. No. The ridiculous costs associated with E3's of the past was the impetus for us doing our own thing in the first place. Plus the union labor (i.e. not being able to plug in your own computers, rather than pay someone $100 and wait 4 hours for them to show up and do it) and the preference the conference gave to longtime ransom payers.... well, it was never for us. Add in 2 miles of techno, $8 microwave cheeseburgers you waited an hour to get, and an endless array of sweaty guys in suits peddling crapware extreme, and we had no problem convincing people to walk across the street for some fresh air, free beer and barbecue, and live music. And we did all of this, even our most extravagant "Promised Lots" for GodGames, at a tiny fraction of what similar sized shops were paying for a crappy booth in Kentia Hall. That's more like what I'd like to see happen. You know - fun - at reasonable rates, and creatively free. Is that why do you feel your proposed event is necessary? Well, I don't know if necessary is the right word, but it'd be a lot of fun and be a welcome backlash to the endless beatdown of originality and independence by the Wall Street enslaved monoliths who currently are driving things. Perhaps we should look at the independent film movement and the festival model as a better way... they are certainly more fun and the press and industry buyers go there explicitly to unearth the next big thing. Do you foresee other independents such as yourselves “setting up shop” so to speak during E3 but outside the official reigns of the show in order to benefit from the show's presence, as well as its group of invited journalists? Hard to say... but I hope we're not the only ones taking initiative... the press will be there and I doubt they are only interested in seeing the sequels and licensed games they've already seen and heard about for years. How would you plan to attract other independent studios to your proposed event rather then having everyone just doing their own thing? Surely a concentrated effort would be more productive, which is what I assume you are going for? Yes, we'd prefer to lead the charge and round up a solid posse of companies from all walks of gaming... independent developers were hardly the only ones excluded... and there are plenty ready to contribute. Our plan is to keep it open and let people do their thing with their piece of space, which will cost them what it costs us, and then maybe all chip in on the common area with the food, music, and libations we'd all enjoy in between meetings.

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