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E3 2005 winds down: Was it good for you?

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Gaming

For the last 11 years, E3 Expo show director Mary Dolaher has been responsible for making sense of the logistical nightmare that comes with trying to put on the leading trade show for what has become a worldwide $28 billion industry.

The inaugural expo spanned 330,000 square feet and brought in 20,000 attendees, and success was by no means assured.

"I remember walking the floor and people said 'This show's never going to take off. It's never going to make any money,'" Dolaher said in the E3 show offices Friday morning as the final day of the expo got underway.

Last year attendance for the show was up to 58,000, and the whole operation took up 535,000 sq. ft. this year. This year the show has officially outgrown the confines of the Los Angeles Convention Center and spilled over into the meeting rooms of the neighboring Staples Center.

"I think if I had one more inch of space, I would have sold it," Dolaher said. "I don't think that there's any spot left untouched in the building...

This year our conference program grew by 30 percent and we haven't had that kind of growth since 1996."

While there have doubtlessly been growing pains associated with that rise, Dolaher said the toughest part of the job is ever the same.

"The biggest headache is trying to keep the consumers from coming to the show," Dolaher said. "Everyone feels that they should come and there's a number of people that will work at a retail outlet, they'll get a job there and work there for two weeks, and because they have a pay stub they think that they're entitled to come."

This year the expo rejected about 16,000 registrants. Dolaher said she doesn't think the outcry for the show to be made open to the public will ever stop, but admits that it's an issue that is regularly considered by the show management and exhibitors.

"Each year [show management] looks at it and determines that they don't want to do that," Dolaher said. "That's not who [exhibitors] want to reach in this element, and with the investment they make."

That difference between trying to reach the consumer and trying to reach the industry was underlined last week when Microsoft unveiled its Xbox 360 console to the consumer audience in a half-hour special on MTV, heavy on the hype and arguably light on details.

Traditionally, E3 would be the place for unveiling a console set to launch in the holiday season, but Dolaher didn't see Microsoft's decision to let the cat out of the big before E3 as anything too worrisome.

"It's important to us because we want to have the products [debuted] here, but we did have 1,000 new products launching this week, so even if one or two [industry players] fall off and decide to go in a different area... there were still 1,000 new products," Dolaher said.

After the show wraps, Dolaher said the first thing she's going to do is take two weeks off, followed immediately by working on making next year's show even better than this year's. But whatever additions and expansions the expo makes for next year, Dolaher said some things never change.

"As far as the improvement side, we'll continually watch the registration and try to set policies and make sure that we're really letting only the quality people in," Dolaher said, "and staff up with more registration people to make sure we keep it to just the people who should be here."

By Brendan Sinclair -- GameSpot

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