By Alesandra Dubin Posted June 4, 2009, 6:38 PM EDT
LOS ANGELES Welcome to E3, where the men vastly outnumber the women and more languages can be overheard than you might expect at the Tom Bradley international terminal at LAX. Produced by IDG World Expo and owned by the Entertainment Software Association, E3—short for Electronic Entertainment Expo—kicked off Tuesday and wrapped today in the Los Angeles Convention Center’s south and west halls.
This year's show marked a huge leap forward in scope from last year's event, which had a different format that drew a significantly smaller crowd of mostly buyers. As of Thursday morning, 41,000 people from 78 countries had walked the show floor to see 216 exhibitors making hardware and software announcements of importance to the gaming world. “The booths are back in a big way,” said a PR rep for the show.
Some exhibits exceeded more typical trade show booths in size by a factor of ten, and many were outfitted with eye-popping technology and decor. (Organizers noted that the installations that typically would have a 10-day load-in period were installed in the show's tighter four-day load-in time.) Here’s a sample of the memorable setups.
A giant logo hung above Activision's booth, where massive screens—recalling the Las Vegas strip in their size and intensity—added drama. Screens made of LED spots changed color to keep the look dynamic. On Tuesday at 2 p.m., DJ Shadow appeared in the booth in honor of the DJ Hero game. “This is a bit of a departure for me,” he told the crowd after mistakenly hollering a good evening-style greeting, rather than a good-day one. ”Normally, it's more of a club setting.”
Bethesda’s booth resembled a massive black box from the outside—inspiring the curiosity of passersby. A red stripe encircled the two-story structure made from black lacquered panels, and two staircases flanked the front of the booth. Inside the mysterious structure, Bethesda provided game demos for attendees.
Dell's Alienware brand—which sells hardware, and recently launched a new laptop—promoted its wares in a booth that resembled an ominous shack, accented with metallic trusses and glowing red lights. Staff dressed up as “Alien Agents” in Secret Service-type garb with briefcases, scanned guests’ badges for giveaways outside the booth.
Disney Interactive Studios
Disney’s all-white booth featured wraparound panels, and a central dome structure that also served as a three-dimensional projection screen. Inside the dome, the brand showed previews of upcoming games on a theater screen.
E.A.’s sprawling booth produced by Premier Displays & Exhibits featured a white carpet and a theater setup with a tiled wall housing a giant screen and sound so loud it shook the floor beneath attendees’ feet. A 2009 BMW M3 Coupe stood nearby: the prize later doled out for the winner of a gaming competition. The exhibit was packed solid with gaming terminals.
A part of CBS Interactive, gaming information site GameSpot.com offered live streaming video of every major press conference, plus continuous coverage of the latest game releases, news, and interviews with industry folks from the stage in its west hall booth. An elevated platform, backed by a yellow plexi wall that revealed the show floor behind it, housed the news desk. Freddie Georges Production Group, headed by Georges and vice president/project manager Jean Powell, produced, designed, and executed GameSpot’s setup.
Xbox laid out its exhibit largely in the round, using materials such as plexi printed with concentric circle patterns. Gobos in similar shapes appeared, disappeared, and reappeared on the light-colored carpeting.
To promote the upcoming release of its new game The Beatles: Rock Band, MTV Games created a booth designed to evoke the band’s storied Abbey Road Studios. The facade came complete with window box planters and blinds inside windows, plus a faux striped sidewalk in front. Inside the structure, the brand did demos of the game. Premier Displays & Exhibits produced the booth, with Exhibit Lighting Group on board for the lighting.
Nintendo’s all-white exhibit included programmable LED panels hanging overhead and throughout, for a bright and futuristic look. Ralph Miller produced and Go West Productions did the scenic design for the booth, where Wii stations beckoned attendees to take off their shoes and get fully involved in the product. (We caught one suit-clad gamer wildly flapping his arms like a bird.) Lighting designer Norm Schwab of Lightswitch worked with ELS for lighting equipment.
A central theater setup in Square Enix’s booth even featured red upholstered bench seating for extra authenticity. Working with lighting designer Rob Lockhart, ELS provided lighting and truss for the exhibit. Creative Technology handled the video in the booth, which also included silvery carpeting for a luxe look. Glass cases displayed Square Enix products like accessories and action figures.
A wraparound screen, evocative of a three-paned mirror in a dressing room, hung over Sony's PlayStation exhibit. The double-decker booth had an upstairs lounge for media game demos by appointment that wrapped around the expansive exhibit space. Pinnacle Exhibits produced the setup for Sony.
Ubisoft had a massive 150- by 100-foot two-story exhibit that was a two-story structure that reached 22 feet at its highest point, where private meeting rooms were insulated from the show floor. Curvilinear structures housed gaming stations with an open flow, and Lounge22 provided furniture in a lounge and full-scale theater setup. Ethos designed, engineered, fabricated, and built the booth, under lead designer Armen Gharabegian, with the idea to keep the crowd flowing and build the brand through signage from all angles. “We really tried to create a dramatic flow, strategies to draw people in,” said Ethos marketing director Michael Fargnoli. Exhibit Lighting Group handled the booth's elaborate lighting design and provided technical staffing. ELS provided lighting equipment and truss and technical staffing for the project, which included glowing LED columns in the lounge area.
Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
What you might expect from a parent company that also makes Hollywood movies, Warner Brothers' booth was prop heavy and extra themey. To promote the company's key games, Freddie Georges Production Group created sets such as a destroyed playground to evoke scenes from a F.E.A.R. game, and a Batmobile for Batman: Arkham Asylum. “Warner Brothers wanted them to be specific, thematic, rather than just generic, to bring the games to life,” said Georges, whose team fabricated the props from scratch for the show. The planning process began in last year for the 10,000-square-foot exhibit.