2011 E3 REPORT – BACK TO THE FUTURE OF GAMING
I worked for Activision in the mid-’90s, when the Internet got fast enough to support multi-player gaming. Mech-Warrior 3 over the net played a little slower than Doom over Dwango, but it was good enough. 15 years later, the state of the art in games is mind-blowing (as are the budgets – often in the tens of millions). My agenda at E3 is to look for up-and-comers on the periphery; smaller companies that have a shot at doing something big, outside of the control of the publishers. This is how we found Demonware, the matchmaking and lobby services company that we sold to Activision. Not to mention one of our bigger deals in the ’90s – the sale of Duke Nukem 3D.
This year’s E3 started out with a strange encounter on the 405. Through the left side rear view mirror a car approached in the HOV lane with. . . a mannequin in the passenger seat. I then parked a half mile away in a lot that looked like the place where stolen cars are taken to be dismantled – not the place where one would leave one’s car. Fortunately, it was a rental. Finally I entered the Convention Center and the perimeter booth models, got my badge, and hit the main hall.
The big budget hits were everywhere. Tanks of War had models and giveaways galore. It looks like a great game – addictive, innovative, and fun. Time passed quickly for the people waiting in line, because the publishers had plenty of contract employees striking up conversations with the guests. Almost every big budget game raised the bar and redefined what is possible on a 2D screen – but where was my upstart company – the entrepreneur who had created something big on very little capital?
I found him in the back corner, behind Konami. A scrappy Seattle startup called GAEMS was showing a case for consoles with a built in screen. Basically, it turns an X-Box or Playstation into a portable gaming unit. Simple, ingeneous, and fun. Look for it in an upcoming movie sponsored by Microsoft, on shelves everywhere next Christmas, and in our M&A report early next year when they get bought out.