It's certain. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, best known as the E3, will not be held this year. The ESA, which has been responsible for the organization of this event from the very beginning, has definitely abandoned the idea of doing it in "analog" form, i.e. in the Los Angeles Convention Center. It's not even known whether it will be possible to create an online equivalent of the event, because, as reported by IGN, it isn't even planned at the moment. This is quite surprising, because last year, the E3 was took place digitally.
All the hype and creative marketing aside, the E3 was the biggest gaming celebration I knew. The greatest hits were announced there, and during those few days, you felt that it was an exceptional event, worthy of the most dynamically developing entertainment industry. My first E3 was in 2009, and it was quite significant, after the infamous funeral, when the classic formula of the fair was ditched for the first time. After this unpleasant episode, the event was re-organized in the halls of the LACC and everything seemed to be back to normal. It was like that for at least eight consecutive years.
E3 has always been a spectacular event, but also incredibly expensive, and with time, this issue began to disturb some exhibitors. The first to break out was Electronic Arts, which in 2016 didn't rent out any space at the Los Angeles Convention Center, but organized their own, independent event just a few hundred meters away. More big players began to question the sensibility of exhibiting in the halls, and three years later, for the first time in history, Sony did not grace the event with their presence. ESA tried to compensate for these losses by letting ordinary gamers into the halls, which had never happened before, but this idea met with much criticism from industry representatives. The fair was slowly losing its exclusive character, and with the crowds of attendees, such a prosaic thing as moving around the complex and arriving on time for pre-arranged meetings became a hustle. The change of the formula caused further tensions with the exhibitors, a good example of which was the sudden reaction of Sony. The Japanese giant announced that it will not appear in 2020, thus further reducing the importance of the event. This decision ultimately did not matter because of COVID, but it showed one thing – not everyone was interested in participating in the expo on the new terms.
The year 2022 could bring a breakthrough in this matter. For two years, we didn't have any industry event with a similar impact, so the prospect of finally reuniting at the fair was really tempting. ESA has long hinted that it intended to return to LA, but at the same time has not even given a possible date. It didn't bode well, and we found out why. Is the reason for canceling the event the unclear pandemic situation, as stated in the statement sent to IGN? Perhaps, but it's likely not the only one. Without large exhibitors, this event makes no sense, smaller studios cannot afford it, and then probably not everyone would be interested in converging at the LACC halls, as already seen in history. I have the impression that this decision was caused by at least several factors, and COVID was just the most convenient one.
The pandemic will end, of course, but that doesn't mean it will be the same as it used to be. Over the past two years, publishers have certainly noticed that showing games on streams is a cheaper and perhaps more impactful solution. It also allows you to cut out the middleman, even such a recognized one as the E3, and provides you with the flexibility when it comes to dates. To sum up, it seems to me that the last nail is just being hammered into the coffin of E3, and that it will never come back in the shape we know. Time will tell whether I'm right or not – hopefully, it will be the latter.
Kristian Smoszna | Gamepressure.com