E3's identity crisis continues, but the ESA claims it can revitalize the show next year.
Last week, the Entertainment Software Association announced that it will not be putting on a digital version of E3 in 2022. The news follows the January announcement that an in-person event would not be held this summer, with the ESA citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the cancellation.
“We previously announced that E3 would not be held in person in 2022 due to the ongoing health risks surrounding COVID-19,” the ESA said in a statement. “Today, we announce that there will also be no digital E3 showcase in 2022.”
The ESA seems adamant that E3 will return in 2023 with a revamped show. In a statement to GamesIndustry, a spokesperson said that the plan is to revive the in-person expo next summer.
“...We will devote all our energy and resources to delivering a revitalized physical and digital E3 experience next summer. Whether enjoyed from the show floor or your favorite devices, the 2023 showcase will bring the community, media, and industry back together in an all-new format and interactive experience."
News of E3’s cancellation has once again called into question the relevance of the expo. Over the last several years, many games industry professionals--both on the development side and in the media--have noted an identity crisis of sorts as the show has struggled to toe the line between consumer expo and business-facing showcase.
The pandemic did no favors for the show, but E3 has been struggling with its identity for years. Pre-pandemic, many big-name publishers and presenters left in favor of their own personal showcases. One of the shows that has filled the void is Summer Game Fest from host and personality Geoff Keighley, which has done respectable viewership numbers as a showcase for game announcements.
Join us this June for Summer Game Fest--an industry wide celebration of video games, featuring a spectacular live kickoff show hosted by Geoff Keighley,” the Summer Game Fest account Tweeted following news of E3’s cancellation.
And even before the 2020 rebrand attempt, 2019’s data breach put the organization in the hot seat. As such, many are calling this year’s cancellation the final nail in the coffin for E3.
“E3's role was to be the place where the industry could play the games that had just been announced,” GamesIndustry’s Christopher Dring wrote this week. “It was for retailers who might stock them, media who might write about them, toy manufacturers who might license them, and so on. But as games publishers have learned to bypass retail with digital distribution, and with developers now speaking directly to fans via social media, the role of E3 has been diminishing.”
In many ways, E3 getting canceled this year is not a surprise. The show’s flagging relevance has been building over the course of several years, and some are calling its eventual demise an inevitability. It’s sad to see a show that has been so intrinsically tied to the video game industry face such a fate, but security issues and an inconsistent identity have their consequences. The ESA is insistent that next year will usher in a grand return for E3, but only time will tell if it can pull it off.
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