Pre-Planning Stages Consume Your Time
Believe it or not, planning to attend E3 starts months in advance. I’m not talking so much as already getting press invites and press meetings, but you have to plan to stay in Los Angeles for around a week. This means money out of your own pocket to pay for a hotel, maybe a rental car to get around town, and many other needs. The thing is if you plan to stay downtown at the time, those hotels in the area sell out fast! You have people from all over the world trying to stay at downtown hotels with limited space. Hotels that offer “E3 Discounts” were sold out for E3 this year back in January! The same hotels were fully booked elsewhere shortly after. These hotels are prime spots for E3 goers because they offer free shuttles to and from both the conferences and convention center, and being downtown LA absolutely sucks with traffic you really could use that!
Otherwise you will be staying a little distance away, and again being LA this requires planning. I’ve stayed rather close to LA a few years along with spots in Anaheim, and this past year I got a little distance away. No matter what it takes hours to fight your way through LA traffic. Let me tell you, I put up with traffic in my hometown, but nothing compares to LA traffic! It will scare any person from a rural part of town for sure.
Other than pre-booking your hotel room and planning out routes (avoid the i-5 at all costs) you will then book a rental car and plan to pay for food and probably gas (especially if you are traveling by car, otherwise plan a plane ticket too!). I say this is needed because shuttles don’t always run around your schedule, and above all else shuttles are purely for E3. Some events are not anywhere near the convention center. I also don’t believe Sony offers a shuttle service to all major hotels, so you need to get there somehow. I have my fair share of woes when renting a car so be careful, if you are lucky you have a personal car that will make it! I do highly suggest getting a car though as the bus system is confusing (and crowded) and taxi fairs in downtown are rather high. Plus the show floot closes at 6PM, and the sun doesn’t go down till 8PM.
Some other expenses you can look forward too should also be noted. Gas prices are high in the area, I believe we were paying 4.40-4.60 a gallon at one point! Parking is also outrageous depending on time of day. Early morning will be around 15 dollars a day, but after that it shoots up to 20-25 dollars a day, private lots were attempting to charge 30. I highly suggest trying to get a spot in the parking garage connected to the convention center as it will be the cheapest, and most easily accessible.You know, so you can run your stuff back to your car real fast!
Overall plan a minimum budget of around 1000 dollars in total.
Now That The Boring Part Is Out Of The Way
After all that is done and your wallet is drained, you then get to do some more pre-planning. In the month or so leading up to E3 you will start getting invites to press meetings along with finding your own. Here is where you get to go through your entire press contact list and start requesting meetings, keeping track of your time. You have to be careful not to put a meeting right after another because you won’t make it, and you need to plan out your entire 3 days. Most journalists that attend E3 with this mentality will be busy the entire time, but will get some exclusive hands on time that others will not get. The cool thing about this though is that it’s the one time most PR’s actually respond to you, even if you are a smaller website. The simple act of wanting to cover their game says a lot.
This is where knowing the layout of E3 somewhat helps. In one hall will be Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo with a few minor studios like maybe Sony Online Entertainment or Razor. Sometimes MS will be next to EA, but that hasn’t happened recently. It is important to know this because it takes a good 15 minutes to walk from one hall to the other and find a booth you need. Why? Well for one it’s a huge convention center that is soon to get bigger, and two the crowds slow you down. Nothing sucks more than standing behind someone not moving very fast.
That Feeling Of Finally Arriving
That feeling of finally getting there makes it all worth it. You see this massive building with massive banners for the latest gaming gadgets and releases, and it just blows you away every time. Huge crowds circling the convention center, inside and out, all there because people want to see the latest game. It’s just pure awesome, then you finally get inside. I say finally because if you show up as the gates open, it takes a good hour just to get in!
One thing I noted this past E3 is the hall with the console companies looks cool, but it isn’t nearly as loud as the hall with all the publishers. In that hall is EA, Activision, Ubisoft, etc… and they are all trying to pull attention to themselves. This means more vibrant displays and loud music with sounds. EA is normally upfront and has the loudest booth of them all as they have their games playing up on a massive projector and speakers everywhere. Everyone has massive statues, posters, flashing lights, and neat things to look at. What were once a small presence like WB Studios are now massive booths with things like the Batmobile and life size Lego’s all around.
It’s Like Disney Land, Lines Everywhere
Once you take this all in, it’s time to get down to business. If you are not running between meetings, you will be sitting in a line. Even to get food there is normally a line, and don’t expect to find a table anywhere either. There is a reason the event is 3 days long. You will never be able to see everything at the show in one day. Think about it, E3 is open from around 9AM till 6PM at the latest (I think it closes early on the last day), which gives you around 9 hours. There are maybe fifty to hundred new games to check out, so even if you managed to get to them all without lines you’d get less than 10 minutes with each one. Now let’s bring in reality. Hot AAA games will have lines that are over an hour long. We waiting in line for an hour and 15 minutes to see Mortal Kombat. Then you have to take into account each demonstration or hands on time lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour. One time at the Konami booth our presentation and hands on time lasted 45 minutes. In total, just to see Mortal Kombat, we used up almost 2 hours of our time at E3! 2 hours for one game!
The crowds can get very frustrating at times. People behind me were complaining the entire time they were near me. I was walking as fast as possible, and still not moving fast enough for them. When I stopped to talk to a WB representative, they got all angry and under their breath said a rude comment, but I wasn’t sure if it was geared at me or not. Don’t be that person, everyone there has to deal with the crowds.
Sitting Down Is Godly
If you are like me, you most likely will bring a tablet or laptop to the show. Believe it or not, that dinky little lightweight laptop gets super friggin heavy after carrying it for several hours. Let’s not forget your feet are also ready to quit because the bottom of your shoes are flatter than pancakes from the walking. At E3, you sit anywhere and everywhere. I personally like to find my way back to the main cafe area and sit on the ground near the exits, and others normally do too. Others either sit on the steps, or sit within the cafe’s in the halls. Very few people actually find seats, but if you manage to then take it and rest for a second. Maybe take the opportunity to write down some notes about what you’ve seen so far, or upload a few photos to your site.
Don’t Forget Your Swag Bag
I’ve attended San Diego Comic Con before my first ever E3. At that event you can’t leave the building without filling up massive bags full of goodies. At E3, things are a little different. You still get swag, but it’s of higher quality and less spread out. Expect to get a lot of cool shirts! Another thing to expect is a bag full of bags…. Yeah for some reason almost every studio was handing out beach bags to us. We were not really taking them in, but still ended up with 10+ bags.
These studios are trying to grab your attention, but also make you happy. A happy journalist means a happy review of whatever they are showing off. You won’t get stuff thrown in your face like Comic Con as you somewhat need to earn it. Most studios will give you a free shirt or bag after you try a game or talk to a rep. Others will throw one at you to try and get you to come check out some new gadget or title. Either way, while you get “less” free stuff, it’s better stuff. It isn’t just advertising posters or ad slips like Comic Con, it’s nice shirts and cool little toys.
Other Odds And Ends
Some other random things you can expect at E3.
Smells – People start to smell as the day goes on, probably because some of us sweat more than others. It happens at almost every convention/trade show though. Alyssa noticed it more than I did and was covering her mouth and nose when we were bunched up with people. If you have the ability, bring some Axe (or whatever brand you like) to help out, slightly joking!
Hot Stuff…. Hands Off – A lot of key games are almost always on demonstration grounds only. Maybe the publisher isn’t ready to let you play them yet, who knows. Most games are on pre-scripted environments and only showcase a specific portion of the game that will be played for you. So don’t get your hopes set too high to actually play some games. A few years ago the show wasn’t like this. You might wait to enter a “separate room” on the show floor to play a game, but at least you got to play it. Recently a lot more companies have abandoned that idea and now push you to a small room only to showcase the game in their hands.
Crowds Follow The Parties – If you know of an event not at E3, chances are the crowd as a whole knows about it. There are lots of parties or events around the convention center. Heck Sony’s own conference is a party in a way with an open bar and food trucks most of the time. Just expect crowds to be there, so yes…. show up early, otherwise forget it.
Showing Up Mid-Day Isn’t Bad – While private events become full, E3 doesn’t really ever meet capacity at any given moment. On the first day, if you show up early you end up waiting in badge lines and lines to get in. So it takes forever to even do anything. Might as well let the line die down a bit, show up an hour or two after it started and slide right in.
Overall it’s important to remember one important thing. IT’s E3! Have fun, you are at what many would consider the greatest event in the world!