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E3 coming back big in 2009

Confusion reigns over whether it's public.

A number of mildly contradictory reports have emerged overnight about the return of E3, the games industry's troubled American showcase, in 2009. But they all agree on one thing: it will remain in Los Angeles in June, and be much bigger than the last two, low-key years.

The news was broken by US TV show X-Play, which stated that the show would return to the LA Convention Centre from Tuesday 2nd to Thursday 4th of June and invite a "broader range of industry guests" than in 2007 and 2008.

However GoNintendo and Shacknews disagreed on whether X-Play said the show would be officially open to the public. GoNintendo said E3 2009 would be "technically open to the public through ticket sales", while Shacknews heard differently, quoting X-Play's Blair Herter as saying: "While event won't technically be open to the pubic with ticket sales, this does mean that more people will have a shot at attending, and yes, I'm talking about you."

The latter would be more consistent with E3s of years past, which were nominally industry-only events with a relatively lax admissions policy that allowed many hardcore gamers to attend, swelling numbers to 70,000 at its 2005 height.

However, Newsweek weighed in with a claim that the 2nd to 4th of June would be industry-only days, followed by two days of open public admission on Friday June 5th and Saturday June 6th. This would fit the model used by the Tokyo Game Show, and Leipzig's Games Convention.

Newsweek later added a caveat, saying this information - from "a source close to the process" - "may have been incorrect", according to other sources.

Newsweek also claimed that attendance would be capped at 40,000, significantly smaller than E3's biggest, and also the 60,000-strong attendance of this year's biggest public show, the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle.

Show organisers the Entertainment Software Association have so far refused to comment on any of this.

The ESA opted to scale back E3 in 2006 after complaints from its members - game publishers and platform holders - that the event had become too unwieldy and expensive.

But many felt that 2007's show, scattered across the hotels of Santa Monica, lacked focus. In 2008, the lack of exciting announcements and the small scale of the show itself - which was somewhat lost in the hugeness of the LACC - led to stinging criticism from industry-watchers and publisher executives alike.

Stay tuned for an official statement on the shape of E3 2009 from the ESA soon.