Last year, E3 went from a show open to almost anyone interested in video games to an invitation-only event. As a result, the number of attendees has shrunk from about 60,000 in 2006 to about 4,000.
The conference has also became less of a spectacle, with suites and private meetings replacing midgets dressed as game characters, strobe lights and pulsating music.
"E3 has gone from a circus style of exhibition to something that looks like it could be an accounting software convention," says Scott Steinberg, managing director of Embassy Multimedia, a consulting firm.The changes have left many in the industry unhappy. "E3 had much more of an impact when it was a show," says Blevins, of IGN.com. "The video game industry is about fun and entertainment, and we should have a show that reflects it," says Blevins, who has attended every E3 conference since it started. But analysts say they are still hooked to the show. "It's the only event of its kind where companies have the opportunity to show what they have coming in the second half of the year," says Todd Greenwald, an analyst with Signal Hill Capital. "The other shows, E For All, in October is too late, and the Game Developers Conference in February is too early."