For the first time, E3 is allowing fans into its closely watched video gaming convention, starting today.
The event, now in its 20th year, had long been closed to the public and attended only by journalists, industry officials and investors.
But organizers say between 3,000 and 5,000 video gaming fans will attend the three-day expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The change underscores E3's transformation from a sales event to more of a public relations extravaganza — highlighted by theatric announcements of new games.
Rich Taylor, senior vice president of communications and industry affairs for Entertainment Software Assn., the E3 organizer, said social media allows fans to share news of new products in a way that rivals the reach of credentialed journalists and bloggers.
"It's another way to get the word out," Taylor said.
Mike Vorhaus, president of media research and consulting firm Magid Advisors, said major video game buyers such as GameStop and Walmart no longer rely on the event to procure games, making E3 more of an annual get-together for the $22-billion industry and chance to drum up as much excitement as possible for new products.
"They like having the fans amp the floor up," Vorhaus said. "So at press conferences, you have people screaming, applauding, ooing and ahing."
An estimated 48,000 people are expected to attend the convention.
Tickets are not available to the public. Instead, the fans were selected by exhibitors, who were given tickets by E3 organizers. Exhibitors who paid for more floor space on the convention floor received more tickets to distribute, Taylor said.