CONSUMER ELECTRONICS DAILY | Jeff Berman: E3 to Stay in L.A., But ESA Mum On Specifics That Kept Show There

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) will return to Los Angeles for the next three years, with next year’s show scheduled for June 11-13, the Entertainment Software Association said Monday. But ESA was mum on specifics about the deal reached with the city of Los Angeles that helped bring the annual videogame industry show back to the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) instead of moving to another venue in another city, as President Mike Gallagher warned last month was possible.

The ESA’s prior agreement to hold E3 at LACC was up after last month’s show, Gallagher told Consumer Electronics Daily on the eve of E3 in June (CED June 5 p8). He said then that ESA would be ready to finalize a deal with one of “two to three other venues” in other cities for next year if terms weren’t soon reached to bring E3 back to the LACC and if the association decided the conference would be best served elsewhere, declining to name the other cities.

There was already cause for concern last year when it was revealed that Anschutz Co.’s AEG was looking to build a football stadium, Farmers Field, in downtown Los Angeles, right by LACC, for a still-unannounced NFL team. If built, LACC’s West Hall, which houses E3 along with the South Hall, would have to be demolished. That “definitely impacts” E3, Gallagher said last month. A new hall would apparently be built to take the West Hall’s place.

ESA said in a news release Monday that the three-year deal “ensures E3 will continue as scheduled alongside AEG’s plans for downtown Los Angeles, including development” of the new Farmers Field. Gallagher said: “We appreciate AEG’s willingness to work in partnership with our organization to not only create a construction schedule to accommodate the needs of our guests but also their commitment to incorporate many of our suggestions into the design of the new venues. These resulting upgrades to the facility will truly benefit all conventions and further establish Los Angeles as industry leaders.”

ESA spokesman Dan Hewitt on Monday declined to “get into specifics” about the deal with the city and the LACC and what his association’s suggestions were for the design of the new venues. He said “we can state that assurances and accommodations were reached that will ensure positive E3 experiences for both exhibitors and attendees.” The timing of the new stadium’s construction and construction of the new LACC wing wasn’t known Monday. ESA deferred to the LACC and a representative of the LACC didn’t immediately comment.

ESA also didn’t address other issues that Gallagher and Hewitt raised last month. Gallagher had said there were unspecified “business issues” that needed to be resolved concerning the LACC, and ESA was also concerned about the lack of adequate hotel space in downtown Los Angeles to support E3. All downtown hotel rooms were sold out within about 24 hours after they were made available for E3 2012 attendees, Hewitt said last month. One factor was the recent closure of the Wilshire Grand, which had about 600 hotel rooms available for E3 attendees, he said then. That was a “clear concern,” Gallagher said then. “We don’t have nearly enough hotel rooms to satisfy the demand” for E3 in downtown, and “that’s a loss for the city of L.A.” that also hurts attendees, he said. The “quality and quantity” of hotel rooms was an issue for the U.S. game industry, which has grown to become about a $25 billion sector, from $6 billion 10 years ago, he said then. “We need a lot more hotel rooms of a higher quality to accommodate a revenue base of that size.”

ESA said E3 2013 will take place at the LACC, L.A. Live and “a plethora of venues” throughout downtown Los Angeles and the city. While exhibits and conference sessions are typically held within the LACC, companies exhibiting at E3 usually hold their news briefings and other events during the show at other downtown venues. Gallagher said Los Angeles “serves as a strong backdrop for the video game industry’s biggest announcements.” Last month’s E3 attracted 45,700 videogame industry professionals, analysts, reporters and retailers from 103 countries for a three-day trade show that generated $40 million in revenue for Los Angeles, ESA said.

ESA’s news release quoted Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa saying he “personally joined in the negotiations, and we worked with all parties to ensure the needs of E3 would be met.” AEG CEO Timothy Leiweke said his company worked with ESA “to provide the confidence in scheduling they have requested.” He said ESA’s input into the design plans “will result in the most efficient and modern facilities that will not only benefit E3 but all of the new conventions that will come to Los Angeles.”

Several game industry executives told us at E3 that they preferred that the show return to Los Angeles, in part because some of their companies were based in or near the city. Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences President Martin Rae told us he hoped that ESA and Los Angeles would “figure it out” because Los Angeles was a “great place” for E3.

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