Editorial: Why E3's New Rules Are Okay...Mostly


Editorial: Why E3's New Rules Are Okay...Mostly

By Bobby Blackwolf - February 13, 2011 at 11:11 AM

See You Next Year!
But you seemed so excited last year!
If you follow writers for independent (or enthusiast) gaming blogs on Twitter, then you've probably heard all of the latest commotion and e-drama to hit this world. E3, the trade show for the video game industry, has finally cracked down on who can cover their event. They have actually been cracking down for years, but they were taking it one battle at a time. First, it was rejecting retail clerks. Now, they've come for the bloggers.

My first E3 was in 1997, in Atlanta, where I'm from. I attended as a developer for my father's company, as I was still in college at the time. I continued attending through his company or through my day job once I graduated, where I was also a programmer. I was not a programmer in the industry, mind you, but I was still a programmer creating interactive systems, and that qualified me to receive an Exhibits Only badge. Then, in July of 2005, I started The Bobby Blackwolf Show, and suddenly I was gaming media. In 2006, I started attending with a Press badge, and continued attending as press from then on.

On the cusp of my 15th E3 in a row, I was informed I did not qualify for admittance as press under new standards. My website (that I have run since 2003) did not register with various websites that track browser history of people with spyware plugins installed. Most of my audience either listens to me live on internet radio (on another website) or downloads my podcast directly in iTunes. If I do my job right, my audience never has to come to their computer and visit BobbyBlackwolf.com. Unfortunately, I did my job so well, I have been labeled as inconsequential to the industry and therefore E3 is better off without my presence.

And you know what, that's okay.

E3 Isn't The First...

E3 isn't the first gaming industry event that has shut out smaller outlets. Several years ago, the Game Developers Conference took the same approach to a more harsh level. I was not applying on my own, but rather with All Games Radio, the network I did my show on. It did a decent amount of traffic, and it does qualify under E3's rules. However, GDC switched to a professional journalist only policy - you had to actually be paid by a reputable organization to receive press credentials. Now, I personally felt that this was awkward, considering that GDC is the top stage for the Independent Games Festival (which I had covered extensively the previous two years) yet they were locking out the independent media from covering it. They agreed, and had offered me a complimentary Exhibits Only pass so I could cover the IGF but not the keynotes or panels. It was, unfortunately, too late to secure airfare or hotel for a decent price, and I politely declined their offer. The gesture was very much appreciated, though, as the offer came from out of the blue as I did not do any type of appeal after the rejection letter.

Why did GDC do this? Because some bloggers didn't understand what GDC was. Most of what goes on at GDC is really of no interest to gamers - it's developers and designers having conversations about methods and techniques to each other. Me, being a programmer by trade, was able to sift through it and present what I felt people should know, since I spoke both languages. But unfortunately, others weren't as qualified. The story I heard is that there was a panel by the designers of Final Fantasy XIII to discuss design philosophies and development strategies. The room was filled and people were being turned away - people who had paid upwards of $1000 for their badge to be able to get into GDC and learn from other designers and developers like themselves. 15 minutes into the panel, the many bloggers who went into the room seeking FFXIII news got up and left because they realized they were going to get nothing of value out of the talk and they were frankly bored by the discussion. Thus, there were empty chairs in a room where they turned away actual professionals in the industry.

I never sat in on panels at GDC, but I did attend the keynotes. The best keynote I witnessed was Shigeru Miyamoto discussing how he designs games, and the various iterations of his ideas. He showed early stages of the Mii back in the Game Boy Color days. He discussed why he created Nintendogs the way he did. It was extremely fascinating...Unless you were a gamer in the chat room I was liveblogging to, they were screaming and extremely upset that they were not announcing new games or showing off a new Zelda. Overall, the reaction was "I understand that they are talking to developers in the room, but Nintendo needs to understand that there are more gamers out here than developers in that room and we are their customers and should know what they are going to be releasing." So, when GDC imposed new restrictions, not many people complained...Because it was justified.

Why E3 Is Right

So how does this tie into E3? A lot of people believe that E3 really is just the world's largest arcade set to Free Play and want to go have fun and try all of the games. People don't realize that, if you belong at E3, it really is a lot of work. Yes, it's also a lot of fun, but that is the reward for the hard work. If you want to have fun, try Penny Arcade Expo. What is PAX? PAX is what people who have never been to E3 think E3 is like. Chances are, at E3, the games you'd want to play aren't even playable. I can't remember the last time a Call of Duty game was playable on the show floor, it was always a demo being walked through by a designer that you needed a previously scheduled appointment to see.

E3 is extremely crowded, and it is very hard for people who legitimately are covering the event to get appointments because there are so many people. And this is why I feel that the metric that E3 is now using - one media badge per 8,000 unique pageviews a month - is okay. It makes total sense. I am sure the heads of Public Relations departments are breathing a sigh of relief because they don't have to vet appointment requests as much. There will be much less "noise" and they can focus on the outlets that will get them the biggest bang for their buck.

You do realize that was why E3 collapsed on itself in 2007, right? 2006 was a record year for attendance. Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and EA all said it was no longer worth it because of the amount of people. They said they wanted no part of it. That's why E3 changed to it's invite only format for 2007 and 2008 and then REALLY almost died. (Although, as a side note, E3 2008 was my favorite E3 in terms of journalism. I was able to see so much and talk to so many people and do a lot of great coverage - the only people who liked 2008 were the smaller outlets!) E3 went back to being like it's old self in 2009, but with more scrutiny. E3 doesn't want to implode like it did last time.

The only people who don't like the new rules are the people who don't qualify to get a free pass like they used to, or they don't get as many free passes as they expected to. The exhibitors see this as a good thing - they can concentrate on the outlets that will give them the best coverage, and the "professional" journalists see this as a good thing because they won't have to fight someone with a tiny blog for the same access time. It's a win-win for the people who do this for a living, not so much if you're doing it as a hobby.

In short, E3 needs to do what it can to please exhibitors, and one of those things is to make sure that the press is made up of quality outlets. Not everyone is going to be another Destructoid.

Where The Rules Need To Be Tweaked

It's not all roses, though. While I agree that E3 needs to "cull the herd" (even if it means culling me out as well) there are certain things that I would like to see revamped in future years.

1. Set up rules based on content delivery methods. The reason I was rejected was because I did not meet pageview standards. Unfortunately, pageviews are not my goal - iTunes subscriptions are. And no matter how many iTunes subscriptions I get, not a single one of those will appear on a site that tracks browser history via a spyware toolbar. I would like to see criteria made available to track those of us who do not deliver our content via text on a website, because we are just as powerful as those who write.

2. Pick a different month. For those that do blog, the bone of contention is that E3 is only looking at your statistics from December of 2010. December is one of the slowest months of the year in terms of gaming news. All of the blockbuster releases came out back in November, and not many announcements are made so as to not disturb the holiday buying season. Therefore, readership is usually down on these outlets. One of my colleagues was rejected for a press pass because his site only had 6000 unique pageviews in the month of December - however every other month of the year he had over 8000. That site's best month? June, during E3, where it had 16,000 pageviews - enough for TWO badges.

3. Do a little more research into the submission. This is important for people who have content syndicated among many different areas. When I submit my application, I include all of the sites I have done work for. However, they only check the first site I listed, saw that it wasn't tracked, and sent off the rejection. Several other outlets are syndicated across various sites, be it YouTube or GameTrailers or feed aggregators or a multitude of things, and maybe they don't meet the requirements for a single one, but overall they would. Unfortunately, getting your content as far and wide as you can is actually a detriment in E3's current rules. The reason they don't check into every application as thoroughly as they should is because so many people are attempting to get press badges, and they need to work as quickly as possible.

4. No really, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Even though this is the same as #3, it deserves it's own bullet point. I have been doing a live internet radio show and podcast about video games for five and a half years. I am the longest running video game show on All Games Radio - I was also the first. I was rejected because I did not qualify for the new rules, and I was fine with that. Several nights ago, another show on the same network was happily accepted and given an E3 press badge. Why were they accepted and I wasn't? Because they don't have their own website so they only linked to their show page on All Games Radio's website.

The punchline? It's not even a show about video games!!! Yet they're welcomed into E3's press room with open arms and the guy who helped launch the network was told he was unqualified. A simple 2 minute look at the website provided in the credentials would have shown this, however all they did was look at AGR's stats, saw that many people with spyware toolbars installed visited, and sent the acceptance letter.

I do want to note that I hold no ill will towards the host of said show. He realizes (I hope) that I bring this up to make a case for E3, not for him. I have sent an "appeal" email (very nicely worded) to the E3 registration email address but I am not holding my breath for a reply. I was already rejected, after all. I don't want to be annoying and call them because I honestly don't want them to hate me. Someday I hope to be eligible and would rather not do something that might accidentally burn the bridge.

So, What Now?

This is a very tough question. There are people out there giving advice and trying to keep the message upbeat. If you listen to Gamertag Radio's E3 2011 Media Roundtable episode you'll hear them say things like "go all in" "work hard and you'll be rewarded" and while all of that is true, there is also a little bit of luck involved. The sad truth is that you can "go all in" and still get rejected. Remember the person I mentioned above who only had 6000 pageviews in December? He actually IS "going all in" - working on that website IS his job. Various situations can change and factors can cause peaks and valleys that you can't really expect or control. All it takes is one person who has a lot of Twitter followers to make or break you. You may create amazing content but just can't get the word out to the right people, or you may create mediocre content but you get mentioned by someone with thousands of followers. So, just "going all in" isn't going to necessarily get you the reward by itself. There's lots of intangibles that nobody can predict.

One thing to point out: true "journalists", be them professional or enthusiast, should not be doing this just to get into E3. That is where some of the problem lies. Some sites use E3 as the carrot on a stick to get writers to work for them for free for the rest of the year. If E3 is the only reason you're writing words on a site, then I think you might be doing it for the wrong reasons.

Yes, I was somewhat negative. But that's because there's a point that everyone's missing. If you really want to go to E3, you can, as long as you are over 18 years old. It's not free, it will cost you some dough, and E3 can smile that they took your money, but it will get you roughly the same amount of access that free badge gets you. All the media badge gets you is access to the nice couches in the press room and you get to have your email put on the mailing list sent to all exhibitors to send out press releases and announce appointment scheduling. If you have sufficient contacts within the companies on your own, you can schedule appointments and get the exact same amount of access that you would have gotten with the badge. If you're a website that wanted to have 5 people cover E3 but only got 2 badges, you can still get the other 3 people in...It'll just cost you.

How bad do you want in?

As for me? I'll be fine. I've been to 10 E3's without a press badge. The only thing I'll really miss is that mailing list.


17023 total views




Mark Wolfe

February 13, 2011 at 11:29 AM

I've always felt the industry should do TWO shows, one for the public held at the end of the summer or beginning of fall, right when most of the new games ARE in a playable form and then have the industry/press only event at its usual time and place. While PAX is great, they would never get the kind of money put into it that E3 gets and I bet if they did it right, the proceeds from the public event would pay for the industry only one.

Bobby Blackwolf

February 13, 2011 at 01:50 PM

This was the theory behind "E4All" in 2007 and 2008. E3 itself had downsized, so the ESA decided to make E4All in the same location as E3 and have it's funding help pay for both events. Unfortunately, there was little industry support, and usually only one big game that was playable. The public did not come, and so the companies did not come, and the event folded when E3 returned to its old ways in 2009.

One of the reasons E4All didn't make it? Gamers felt PAX was a better alternative, because it's a convention by gamers, whereas E4All was a convention by corporate types.

George Cauley

February 14, 2011 at 07:53 PM

Personally I have read up on the requirements listed on their website for media in general. For online types its pretty cut and dry:
Online Reporters:
Web sites and podcasters must be previously established and updated regularly with original and current interactive entertainment industry news. To qualify as online media, please provide:

A copy of your driver's license or government issued photo identification clearly showing your name and date of birth (no one under 17 will be admitted), and
A copy of your business card with name, editorial title and media outlet's logo, and
A printed copy of your online publication with your name and title appearing in an editorial capacity, including a bylined interactive entertainment industry-related article from your publication written by you and published within the last six months (the copy must clearly show the name of the publication and your byline)

This does not mention anything about page-views and the like. Though I know full well that everything you said is true, I don't see any of what you listed in the media credential FAQ. I believe this to be a disservice to you and others who may wish to try and attend in any way. I had entertained the idea of trying to go as I have had a website going for a bit. Though it is obvious that E3 is turning people away without making themselves consistant.

If there is one thing that will bite any professional organization in the rear its consistency. If they will say one thing then turn around and have another invisible rule that they invoke when needed, that is completely unprofessional. That makes it rather sad that it almost makes PAX a better run convention and it is pretty much built by everyday people working hard.


February 14, 2011 at 10:29 PM

you know its amazing how ass backwards E3 is. so let me get this straight. if you pay to get into E3 u have less access than if you are given a free pass?

be careful what you wish for. if you are given a free media pass and set up an appointment with developers you better be dam sure with this smaller format they will goto your site and see what type of reviews you are giving their games. you become beholden to someone who pays your meal ticket.
fairness is if everyone pays. the more you pay the more access youll get. tier the access $2000/$1000/$500, money raised goes towards childs play


February 15, 2011 at 12:25 PM

To a large extent, I understand & agree with the ESA's reasons behind the rule change, however, like you, I agree that the new rules are imperfect and as such, need to be tweaked. While, yes, the "major" sites like IGN & 1up DO get a good deal of hits per month & their employees are paid, in my mind's eye, website like AGR & shows like yours & OLR are just as good, if not slighly better due to 1 key factor - for indie podcasteers like yourself, one doesn't do the shows for a job as you had pointed out - you do it merely for the love of the subject. It's too easy nowadays to take any old job, regardless of field, without any ireal love for what one does it's just that - a job that pays for food on the table & other misc. living expenses. This is not to say that this is necessarily true for everyone at the major sites (there are those who do love their jobs), but point being is that those like OLR & youself - who do gaming radio/podcasting for years on your own dime and do reach listeners - are just as valid as the major outlets due to your respective love of the subject matter, objective reporting, and so on. If anything, I believe indie shows are more credible merely due to the fact that they are unpaid & love the subject matter.


May 9, 2011 at 02:20 AM

Please be honest people, do I have a chance?
I have barely reached 1,000 pageviews.. I guess not.. :(


March 12, 2013 at 04:33 PM

So basically if i contribute ( pay ) to a site a or game devolpers project and can show proof I can get in

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