All Good Things Converge at FMX
It's curious to analyze the growth of FMX, both in prestige and program diversity, certainly within the context of the decline in scope and size of other festivals and conferences within the animation, visual effects and gaming space.
While I have no evidence to support my theory besides my own travels and discussions with colleagues, I would venture to say that in the last 10 years, between the rise of the Internet and a couple of economic downturns, attendance at many events has steadily declined. Many otherwise excellent events have closed up shop altogether. A decade ago (maybe more) I remember a NATPE (National Assn. of Television Production Executives) show in New Orleans that filled the entire convention center -- the line to get the Warrior Princess Xena's (Lucy Lawless) autograph stretched hundreds long, out the door and down the Riverwalk to the mighty Mississippi River. Regis and Kathy Lee broadcast their show from the floor that year, which certainly attested to the event's size and, at the time, impact on and importance to international broadcast and cable TV programming and distribution. Today, unfortunately, the NATPE event, while still an important destination, only occupies a small space at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay.
Since the Internet has revolutionized the instantaneous dissemination of news and information, with social networking and mobile communication enslaving a generation of creative-types to the addictions of the immediate "shared experience," as well as the simple and cost-effective distribution of hardware specs and white papers, software demos and full versions with supportive documentation, there is little need or economic justification to send reams of staff thousands of miles to sit and play with the latest industry wares and vaporware. Except, of course, if it's the latest Apple electro-trinket, which justifies any trip to any destination for a look-see and group hug.
A couple browser clicks and you can pretty much see any new short film, video clip or trailer, technical spec, “behind the scenes” look or promo piece made by anyone, anywhere about anything. And while, of course, few would argue that there is no substitute for watching films in a big theatre at a festival with a live, drunk and otherwise jacked up audience, I would argue that many of the reasons why an event that used to rally 50,000 participants which now boasts 5,000 participants lay in the fact that there is little economic justification for most businesses to send their people all over the globe in droves when that same experience and benefit can be had while people sit at home in their pajamas drinking Red Bull or scotch. Or both.
So, gross generalities aside, just how are we supposed to judge the "goodness" or value of attending a given event, when there are so many different paths and goals for everyone in attendance and the personal development and economic justifications are often difficult to quantify?