Indie startup Ouya had a showdown with the Entertainment Software Association at E3 this week, momentarily overshadowing the rivalry between Microsoft and Sony. The brouhaha actually involved real police and took place on the streets of Los Angeles, revolving around, of all things, a parking lot.
It seems Ouya opted to introduce its open source gaming console not on the floor of the trade show, but across the street. The company rented part of a parking lot, and at 9:00 a.m. local time on Tuesday, the ESA reportedly resorted to renting out another part of the lot, where it parked semi trucks to block Ouya’s makeshift display.
Ouya followed suit by renting the spots in front of the trucks, where it erected banners. Then the police showed up!
“Apparently, the police were called in to try to shut things down and found everything to be in order, so there was nothing further for them to do,” said Wanda Meloni, senior analyst at M2 Research. “Ouya had the correct permits and paperwork for setting up at their location across the street from E3. In previous years during E3, companies that have had space outside the conference facility were also exhibitors and/or paid for additional advertising, which Ouya was not.”
The ESA and Ouya did not respond to our request for further details.
Given that the police showed up only to confirm that Ouya had the proper permits, the showdown may have fizzled, but it no doubt left bad blood between Ouya and the ESA.
Ouya got some publicity, but its value is unclear, as the spotlight has been on the incident rather than on the console the company is rolling out.
“You would think it would be less expensive to get a hotel room or actually get a small booth or a meeting room,” said Steve Smith, editor-in-chief of the consumer electronics trade magazine TWICE. “You get the exposure and you build a relationship with the show’s organizers.”
In this case, though, it seems the situation never should have gotten out of hand in the first place.
“Ouya announced their location and Ouya Park over a month ago, invited developers, and had all the right permits,” noted M2’s Meloni. “It looks a little like the ESA was trying to intimidate them, which is a shame.
“The traditional games industry needs to find ways to better support the smaller developers and the indie group — offer them discounted memberships and advertising,” she suggested.
“They are part of the future, so embracing them is a far better approach than using scare tactics and bullying,” added Meloni.
A Lot of Trouble
Like many trade shows, E3 historically has been accompanied by offsite events. Some organizers see these as enrichment — things that help push the show into the must-attend category.
On the other hand, there have been some standoffs over these events as well. Conflicts have arisen when offsite events take place during the day, as they can draw attendees away from the official show floor — something no trade show organizer ever wants to happen.
“Major conventions guard access to their shows zealously,” said George T. Chronis, editor of DFC Dossier.
“Usually this means locking in most major venues around the convention site as official participants. In this fashion, the organizers can manage pricing, who may participate, what types of events that are permitted to happen in the vicinity, etc,” he pointed out.
“As it appears the parking lot across the street from the Los Angeles Convention Center is not an official convention venue, the E3 staff had little control or options regarding Ouya’s presence,” Chronis told TechNewsWorld. “That’s if the ESA called the cops, which we do not know for a fact. But assuming the ESA was involved, it might be prudent for them next week to secure all of that parking lot for 2014.”
Ouya is of course not the first company to try to present an “anti-E3” type of event, but why any of them choose to go that route is a head-scratcher. In Ouya’s case, it isn’t getting press for its console, and its relationship with ESA must now be chilly at best. Still, this is par for the course in the video game industry.
“To go through the histrionics of renting a parking lot seems not worth it,” TWICE’s Smith told TechNewsWorld.
“Of course, many of the companies at E3 really think they are key to the entertainment business and oftentimes act like a Hollywood studio — but that said, you would think it would have been easier to go to the show officially,” he said.
“If they wanted the attention of the investors and retail buyers, they could have gotten a hotel room or meeting room in the convention center,” Smith reiterated. “Maybe they were doing this for pure publicity.”