Direct From SF: The Origin, The Brutality Of The Gamer's Day

San FranciscoI've been a busy little San Francisco reporter lately, scuttling from one event to the next, checking out secret games I can't discuss until weeks later.

I've previously mentioned how these events seem to be happening at the same time. There's a reason for that, and there's a reason why they start happening specifically in April: it's part of the ramp up to the Electronic Entertainment Expo in mid-July.

Every company holds their own, personalized event that every nearby outlet flocks to. Just yesterday afternoon, Namco Bandai held a Gamer's Day (they called it an Editor's Day) that went into the early evening, after which I immediately walked a few blocks to a smaller Valve gathering, where they were showing new bits of "Team Fortress 2" in a bar-turned-net cafe.

It wasn't always this way. You can thank the "new" E3 for that.

The reason E3 was such a monumental event was because every company held onto their biggest announcements until those fateful few days in May. The industry unloaded all of its biggest guns at once, meaning the press got little sleep.

Around the time that E3 disbanded last year, however, companies started to organize what are commonly known as Gamer's Days (or "summits"). These are one publisher-oriented events that gathers the press into a controlled location to look at the upcoming products from a single company. E3 booths were lavish, part of the competition for the attention of every attendee.

That isn't how things work at a Gamer's Day. By holding a singular event for the media, a company can count on an entire day's worth of coverage focusing on their entire lineup. Instead of getting a headline or two on the front page of IGN in a list of possibly hundreds of articles, they guarantee the only substantial subject that outlet will be discussing is concerning their products.

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[Valve's "Team Fortress 2" event, featuring a lonely Garnett Lee of 1UpYours fame]

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[Nintendo's Spring Media Summit 2008, with Kotaku's Michael McWhertor in a pondering state]

From a publisher's perspective, that makes perfect sense, but since most companies aren't releasing their major titles until the busy fall season and the major hardware manufacturers still use E3 as a time to make big reveals, we have what those in the industry call the "ramp up to E3."

These events usually starts in April. E-mailed invites to Gamer's Days arrive earlier than that. Sometimes you're putting dates on your calendar as early as February. But that, readers, is why I (and every other gaming reporter in San Francisco) have been so busy lately. Every major publisher is positioning their Gamer's Days in the Bay Area strategically to generate buzz leading into E3.

For obvious reasons, these publishers don't talk to one another. As a result, these days start overlapping. When you're a site with dozens of available employees -- 1UP, IGN, GameSpot -- that's no big deal. But when you're the only reporter for MTV Multiplayer in San Francisco -- which I've grown to appreciate, actually -- means wires start getting crossed. Things blend.

I had to cancel an interview with industry legend and Atari founder last week Nolan Bushnell due to all of this. I should be talking to him soon, but it will be over a phone, not in person. Bummer.

Originally, this column would've been about the apparently amazing Yuri's Night 2008, but I ended up out of town. Hopefully, I provided a little insight into the media/reporter relationship and why that results in the words you read.

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Have a hot tip? Is there a topic that Multiplayer should be covering and isn't? Maybe you know more about the origin of the Gamer's Day than I do. Drop me an e-mail.