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Digital expo to crank up the glitz

October 23, 2008|Alex Pham | Pham is a Times staff writer.

Welcome back, booth babes, er, models. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, known as E3, is expected to return to its roaring roots in June after two years of flirting with the somber side.

The show has traditionally been the video game industry's most important convention, drawing as many as 70,000 attendees to Los Angeles to admire the displays, go temporarily deaf from the thundering sound systems and gawk at the scantily clothed models.

After game companies objected to the hassle and expense of putting on the glitzy show, the Entertainment Software Assn., the industry group that organizes E3, went the other way. It scaled down the attendee list to fewer than 5,000 journalists and analysts and toned down the show floor. That prompted observers to ask, "Why so serious?"

The association announced Wednesday that it would be returning to the old format for next year's show, which will be held June 2-4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Instead of doling out registrations based on the usual invitation-only list, it will throw open the doors to any professional related to the fast-growing game industry, which is expected to generate about $50 billion in global sales this year.

"It's going to be a much larger tent that will be more indicative of the large ecosystem of the industry today," said Michael Gallagher, chief executive of the association.

Gallagher estimates that next year's E3 will draw 40,000 people -- more than eight times this year's attendance but fewer than in the show's peak years, when it was a rite of passage for some teenagers to sneak their way into the raucous event.

The association also shifted the show to June, from July, to draw in retailers who tend to place their holiday orders earlier in the summer.

As for the booth babes, Gallagher said, "Exhibitors will have a much wider range of creativity in which to display their games and products. We expect models to be part of that."


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