[Gamasutra editor-at-large Chris Morris examines recent changes to E3 2011's media registration policy, intended to "prevent some of the problems we've had with fake badges," according to a rep with event co-organizer ESA.]
Getting into E3 in Los Angeles in June is going to be a different experience for journalists this year.
For the first time, the Entertainment Software Association, which organizes the convention, has decided not to pre-mail badges to media attendees.
This move is in part due to an effort to clamp down on the growing practice of badges being sold on Craigslist and other online venues in advance of the show.
Street prices for badges for the 2010 show -- which often turned out to be cloned fakes -- hit as high as $700.
That resulted not only in disappointed (and angry) fans being turned away at the show floor, it gave the industry something of a black eye.
Under the new practice, journalists who register and are approved to cover the June 7th-9th, 2011 trade show will receive an email with a barcode on it.
They will either bring a printout of that email or a copy on their smartphone, which will be scanned at kiosks in Petree Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Kiosks will then print the badge, attendees will grab their badgeholder and be on their way.
"We think this is a solution that checks off a number of different boxes," says Dan Hewitt, Senior Director of Communications & Industry Affairs for the ESA. "It will prevent some of the problems we've had with fake badges. It also increases efficiency at the show. It will speed up the process a lot."
Non-media attendees will not see any change in the way they get their badges, which will still be picked up at E3 itself. The move -- and the stratospheric prices some consumers are willing to pay for a ticket to E3 -- showcase just how much of a pop culture event E3 has become and how the industry is having to pivot to accompany that.
In recent years, there has been a lot of rumors about the show opening up to the public for part or all of its duration, but that has yet to move beyond the discussion phases.
"That's a conversation we have every year," says Hewitt. "At the end of the show, we do a top to bottom review of what worked and what didn't, where do we need to improve in terms of logistics and the overall look and feel of the event."
"The idea of having a consumer's day or separate event is something we also look at. Right now, though, it's the feeling of the leaders of the industry that we've got a good format that's meeting the needs of the industry. ... So we're confident in the [current] format right now."
Beyond the counterfeiting and reselling of badges (typically done by smaller blogs), journalists can point a finger of blame themselves for the changes. Several have expressed confusion with the process or requested new badges be sent when their originals were lost before the show. Others have requested a new badge after moving.
But the ESA and event co-organizer IDG World Expo does not reissue badges, which inevitably led to frustration. With the barcode method, Hewitt says the ESA is hoping to lessen those troubles.