ESA reiterated that E3 2023 is happening, with a hybrid physical and digital presence, as it tries to bring the event back to where it was.
In a recent interview with Washington Post (opens in new tab)ESA President Stan Pierre-Louis has doubled down on the claim that E3 will be back next year.
“As much as we love these digital events, and as much as they reach people and we want that global reach, we also know that there is a very strong desire for people to come together,” he said. “To be able to connect in person and see each other and talk about what makes games great.”
Traditionally, E3 has been the biggest date on the gaming calendar, and since 1995 it has been a cornerstone of the entire industry. However, it’s been a rough few years for the show. Covid means you missed two out of the last three years and haven’t held a physical event since 2019.
During this period, companies found solutions to the void left by the fair. Geoff Keighley’s Summer Games Fest has apparently absorbed many of the press conferences surrounding the show, and Microsoft hosts its own independent showcase. Even before Covid, companies like Sony and Nintendo chose to hold concerts disconnected from the early June window of E3, with Sony in particular forgoing its trusty summer conference for smaller State of Plays.
I want to believe (but no)
I love what E3 was like. The first show I went to in 2013 was a true dream come true, and I was lucky enough to go to several subsequent events and be in the room for some of the most memorable moments of the press conference. It has always been a high point of my professional calendar.
Also, this current model of companies half-committed to summer showcases spread out over an indefinite period of time isn’t particularly appealing. There was always a big buzz around E3, with much of the industry flocking to Los Angeles in June each year to showcase their work and mingle. It always felt pretty unifying. I look back on those times fondly and even watch old press conferences for ‘fun’ every now and then.
All that said, I’m not optimistic about the ESA’s prospect of recapturing the magic it once had. Even before Covid, E3 was struggling. More and more companies were pulling out, and she was lost in an identity crisis as she tried to transition from an industry-exclusive trade show to a fan convention.
E3’s problems are bigger than returning after Covid. As a host trying to revive a party that ended a few days ago, it’s going to be an uphill battle for the ESA to convince everyone to come back once they’ve moved on – “the meeting ended over the weekend Brian, and I have to go to work today.”
E3 was notoriously expensive for companies to present, with a lot of money needed to secure space at the LA Convention Center. It’s going to be hard to get the bigger publishers to return when they now have a precedent of getting their summer news out through their own independent press conferences at a fraction of the cost. It’s hard to see, now that the tie has been severed, why companies like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft would return to E3.
Plus, with Geoff Keighley’s Summer Games Fest proving to be a reliable platform in recent years, companies don’t even have to put on their own show anymore. If it’s big enough, they can put out an ad for someone else to handle.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be proven wrong. Perhaps the ESA will be willing to eat the cost for a few years and encourage companies to return. It’s possible, but after lost years to Covid, would the ESA be in a position to lose money for long-term gains like this?
However, it would be wonderful to see. The new status quo of companies releasing their big summer news in a haphazard fashion is difficult to cover as a journalist, let alone attractive to viewers. It’s hard to maintain that level of enthusiasm for a few weeks instead of days. That ‘Gamer Christmas’ aura has passed.
There was a real community aspect to E3 – of people from all over the gaming world getting together in one place once a year, and it was always rejuvenating. I don’t think it’s a good enough reason for companies to want to buy back the E3 model again. It looks like it’s going to be very difficult to put this genie back in the bottle.