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THE CUTTING EDGE / CYBERNEWS

Expo's Atlanta Debut Gets Mixed Reviews

June 23, 1997|DAVID PESCOVITZ | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Electronic Entertainment Expo left its Los Angeles birthplace for roomier digs in Atlanta this year, and though the move didn't appear to hurt attendance at last week's show or drive away any major exhibitors, there's still some controversy over whether it made sense for the computer- and video-game fest to abandon the belly of the entertainment beast.

"It was a very hard decision, and one that I wish we didn't have to make," said Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Assn., owners of the show. "But, for example, Intel Corp. is in the show this year and if we had kept it in L.A. we wouldn't have had room for them."

Robert A. Kotick, chairman and chief executive of Santa Monica-based Activision, didn't quite see it that way. "I hate it," he said. "If we didn't have such a big lineup of product to show, we wouldn't have come. Every one of the companies you see here is based on the West Coast, and the L.A. Convention Center had ample space for those companies that are actually going to be long-term exhibitors."

Added Julie Gladders, vice president of the L.A. public relations firm KillerApp Communications, which represents a number of game companies: "Let's face it, Atlanta is not a hot spot of interactive entertainment." Many other attendees, though, didn't seem too worked up about the change. "I still have to get on an airplane, whether I'm going to L.A. or Atlanta," said a buyer for Sears, Roebuck & Co.

And Jeffrey Katzenberg, the DreamWorks SKG chief executive who might have been expected to sing L.A.'s praises, said he thought the linkage between electronic gaming and other forms of entertainment was a bit overblown.

"I don't believe that the interactive industry is necessarily a Hollywood-connected industry," said Katzenberg. "The interactive business is becoming more and more an auteur business and a storytelling business, which is a good thing, but I think that's the end of where it has anything in common with Hollywood."

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