The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has confirmed that it will not go forward with a physical Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) event this June.
In a press statement, the gaming industry lobbying group attributed the cancellation to “the ongoing health risks surrounding COVID-19 and its potential impact on the safety of exhibitors and attendees.”
However, as IGN reporter Rebekah Valentine notes, the organization wouldn’t actually commit to a digital alternative, which it did last year amid the pandemic. Instead, the ESA simply said it’s “excited about the future of E3 and look forward to announcing more details soon,” When pressed by IGN for clarification, the ESA said it could not confirm at this time whether a digital alternative will even be held this year.
Notably, Valentine says she’s heard from multiple sources that this year’s physical E3 was cancelled possibly as early as last fall. Given that June is still five months away, it appears that the ESA may now be using the ongoing Omicron variant as a public-facing reason for cancelling the show.
It’s important to note that E3 has been struggling for a few years now, even before COVID. In 2019 when the last Los Angeles-based physical E3 was held, there was debate over whether the show was relevant anymore.
Historically, E3 has been a trade show for media and industry to learn more about games and share news to consumers at home, but that isn’t as necessary in a massively digital age. Nowadays, though, companies can produce tightly edited, more cost-efficient presentations like Nintendo Directs which can be released at will — no glossy, expensive, June-specific press conferences are needed.
To that point, PlayStation bowed out of E3 in both 2019 and last year’s digital-only show. (No event was held in 2020.) The company has instead held its own Direct-like streams over the past couple of years. Canada’s own Geoff Keighley, the creator of The Game Awards, also stopped producing shows for the ESA in favour of his own Summer Game Fest event, which runs for weeks at a time before, during and after when E3 is normally held. Summer Game Fest is slated to happen sometime this year, with Keighley promising updates in the coming months.
And outside all of this alternative gaming programming, the ESA’s reputation took a big hit among the industry when it accidentally leaked the private info of 2,000 media. Last year’s all-digital event, which attempted to create a virtual show floor for fans to explore with a digital avatar, also drew significant criticism for feeling barebones and oddly structured.
All of that is to say that it remains to be seen whether E3 will be held this year at all and, beyond that, in the future.