What if you gave a keynote speech and (almost) nobody came?
That was the situation in which Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) found himself at E3 yesterday. Despite being selected as the first political figure to keynote the ESA's annual trade show, Perry attracted an audience estimated to have been between 50-60 people, including ESA employees. The sparse attendance was accentuated by the cavernous room reserved for the speech, which was set up with hundreds and hundreds of chairs.
Despite the lack of onlookers, the Guv soldiered on, delivering in his folksy style a credible speech touting the benefits of running a business in Texas, the creativity and success of the video game industry and touting the Lone Star State as a great spot for game developers to set up shop.
Following his speech, Perry was escorted (left) by ESA boss Mike Gallagher to the small space that passed for a show floor where he viewed some displays and spoke with G4's Adam Sessler. As he was leaving, we thought we heard someone say that he was headed for EA next. Perhaps the Guv was hoping to persuade EA to bring some biz to Texas.
So why didn't anyone show up for the keynote, an obvious embarrassment for the ESA? There are several possibilities:
- The show had already opened when the Guv spoke. In years past, the keynote opened the show. Pent-up E3 enthusiasm would find its first outlet at the keynote because there was nothing else competing with it. The room was always packed.
- The ESA used to put out a breakfast of some sort for the media types just prior to the keynote, always a solid strategy to lure a pack of perpetually broke game journos.
- Attendance at the show was perhaps 5% of what it once was. Naturally, there are fewer potential attendees for any single event.
- Some people may not have wanted to hear from a politician in general; some may not wanted to hear from Gov. Perry specifically
Although there was no question & answer segment such as former ESA boss Doug Lowenstein used to hold following his keynotes, I really wasn't expecting a major political figure Like Perry to hold a Q&A in this setting.
While on hand at the keynote I live-blogged my immediate impressions via Twitter. These have been pasted in after the jump.
These are live SMS tweets entered via my mobile phone, so please excuse abbreviations, rough formatting, lack of capitalization, punctuation, etc:
Wow, I am at the Guv Perry keynote which starts in like 2 minutes. There are maybe 25 people in the audience.
This low turnout is kind of embarrassing for gaming. If you are in the LACC, the the Guv Perry keynote is room 515
At the old E3 format they used to serve a pre-keynote breakfast and the room was packed. On the other hand, the old E3 had like 10-15x crowd
Mike Gallagher of ESA is introducing Guv Perry. Maybe 50 people here in audience
Gallagher is off now, they are showing a video about the game development biz in Texas, warren spector, starr long (ncsoft) others speaking
Gordon walton from Bioware is also on the video.... Guv is now on
Guv talking about pong in his day but halo, mario kart the thing now. He seems to be talking as if crowd was developers, but [it's] mostly media
I am recording the guv's talk and will make it available on Gamepolitics next week.
I notice that he is talking off the cuff, not using Teleprompter....
Guv mentioned origin systems, compared texas game devs to early oil men in risk taking and wealth creation (i am paraphrasing)
Basically a lot of his theme is job creation, sez TX has 22 development companies, 3rd most in USA... Touts low cost of living
Guv now talking about TX tax incentives [for game devs], sez he will ask legislators for more...
Guv also said that he wants to look at games in schools, especially in relation to fitness
Touting employer friendly tax system and legal system which blocks frivolous lawsuits... No state income tax
Guv sez answer to some of answers to nation's economy can be found in game biz... Sez stereotype of gamer is wrong, avg age 35, etc
Mentioned Wii Tennis, Brain Age, wounded soldiers using Guitar hero, MGS
Guv mentioned ncsoft telling him of handicapped players whose social contact comes primarily from MMO, a pretty empathetic comment
Guv: I came to E3 to encourage game biz... And challenge biz to "make better worlds, make a difference"
Guv suggested future games to train soldiers for peace keeping missions or help an abusive parent control his/her behavior
All in all, he did a nice job. Very folksy and upbeat. He had a good grasp on game biz
Guv is off now, no question/answer segment
Gov. Perry's website has a press release on the keynote.