For as long as I’ve been writing this blog E3 hasn’t been much more than a distraction when it rolls around. Indeed in the 7 years I’ve been writing about games I’ve only ever covered it twice and usually only in passing, picking out a couple things that piqued my interest at the time. The reasons behind this would be obvious to any gamer as E3 has been largely irrelevant to the gaming community since about 2007 with most of the big announcements coming out of other conventions like PAX. However this year something seemed to change as the both the gaming industry and community seemed to rally behind this years expo, making it one of the most talked about to date.
The reason behind E3’s quick fall into obscurity was fuelled by the extremely questionable decision back in 2007 to close off the event to the general public and instead only allow games industry representatives and journalists. The first year after this was done saw the attendance drop to a mere 10,000 (down from 60,000 the year previous) and the following year saw it drop by half again. The other conventions that popped up in E3’s absence soaked up all these attendees and, by consequence, all of the attention of the games industry and press. Thus E3 spent the last 5 years attempting to rebuild its relevance but struggled to find a foothold with such stiff competition.
This year however has proven to be E3’s one of its greatest on record with attendance above 50,000 for the first time since they made that awful decision all those years ago. This rise in attendance has also come hand in hand with a much greater industry presence, boasting a much greater presence from major game developers and publishers. There were also numerous major announcements from pretty much all of the large players in the console and PC markets, something we really hadn’t seen at a single event for some time. For someone who’s been extremely jaded about E3 for so long it honestly took me by surprise just how relevant E3 had become and what that might mean for the conference’s future.
The challenge that E3 now faces is building on the momentum that they’ve created this year in order to re-cement their position as top dog of the games conferences. In it absence many of the larger players in the games industry opted to either patronize other conferences or set up their own, many of which have now gone on to be quite profitable events (like BlizzCon, for example). E3 will likely never be able to replace them however given the resounding success of this year’s conference there is potential for them to start drawing business away from some of the other conferences.
In the end though more competition in this space will hopefully lead to better things for the wider gaming community. It will be interesting to see if E3 can repeat their success next year and what the other conventions will be doing in response.
For PAX Australia this year my friends and I were left in a rather unenviable position. All of the Melbourne residents didn’t have the space to accommodate the 6 of us visiting and trying to find accommodation that would suit us was proving troublesome. Sure we could’ve booked multiple hotel rooms but the price wasn’t particularly great, on the order of $200 per night per room (of which we’d need 3). Whilst we’d previously used holiday homes for other adventures our usual websites weren’t coming up with anything, at least nothing in a reasonable price range. After mulling over the options I finally relented and gave Airbnb a go and the experience was pretty amazing.
Searching around for places that were close to PAX I found a couple places that were available for that weekend which could accommodate the lot of us. From the pictures most of them didn’t look like anything special but we weren’t going to be doing much there at all so I wasn’t particularly fussed. After jumping through a couple login hoops and laying down my credit card I had booked 3 nights accommodation for 6 people for a grand total of $600. If I had booked hotels to cover the same time period the cost would have been almost triple that, something which my travelling compatriots were very pleased with.
We were quite unlucky when it came to fly down as the weather saw many of the afternoon flights cancelled. I was worried that we’d get there too late and end up annoying our hosts but arriving at 9:30PM I was greeted by the couple who owned the house plus one of their friends. After dropping off all my gear I asked them if there was anywhere local I could get dinner and, to my surprise, they offered up the left overs from the dinner they had just packed up. They also gave us breakfast every morning, not that we stayed for it since we were usually meeting up with everyone at PAX.
Talking it over with our hosts it seemed like this experience wasn’t exactly uncommon as they had had several Airbnbers through previously all of which said similar things. Indeed all my friends who have used Airbnb since have commented on just how smooth the whole process is and how cheap the accommodation is when you compare it to hotel rooms of the same quality. This is even in a country where Airbnb doesn’t have that much use when compared to local equivalents (like Stayz).
It came as little surprise then that Airbnb has been shown to have positive effects for tourism in the areas in which its prevalent with guests often spending a lot more in the area than their hotel counter parts. I know that for myself personally the money that would’ve otherwise been spent on accommodation did end up in other places and I felt far more at ease with spending more knowing that my entire accommodation budget was only $100. At the same time I know that some of my friends might not have attended if the accommodation price was too high and Airbnb made it possible for them to come and not have to worry about it.
What Airbnb has above everyone else is the fact that their service just plain works, taking away all the barriers that would otherwise be required to book a stay at a non-hotel location. I was able to find a place, check it out, book it and send an email to everyone coming all in the space of 30 minutes, even without having used the service before. The only improvement I’d love to see (and feel free to correct me if this already exists within it) would be the ability to split the payment up and have everyone pay their share directly. It wasn’t too much of an issue for me however but it’s something that I’m sure a lot of people would love.
Now we just need Uber to start making their way around here, then I’ll be able to do all my travel needs from my smartphone. Now that’d be awesome.