Everything You Need to Know About E3’s Cancellation

edited August 2023 in Gaming

E3 2023, the popular video game convention that had been set to take place in just a couple of months, has been canceled just as E3 2022 had been, leaving fans of the event to wonder whether it will ever return. E3 last took place as an in-person event in 2019, and it seems that in the intervening years, developers and publishers have found other avenues for promoting their games and connecting with industry insiders and customers. 

History of E3

Los Angeles-based E3 was a trade expo where industry participants introduced and advertised upcoming games and merchandise and made major product announcements.

In the past, E3 attracted audiences of around 50,000 people per year and showcased some of the best and newest technology in the industry. With a large conference held at the end to announce all the upcoming titles, systems, and technologies, it was E3 that gamers turned to when they wanted to find out the latest details about soon-to-be-released games.

The concept of E3 was born out of the Chicago Consumer Electronics Show, at which game publishers and developers were relegated to a basement area of the convention center. Envisioning a show that focused solely on the video games industry, the Interactive Digital Software Association—which would later become the Entertainment Software Association—decided to establish their own spinoff event. Accordingly, in May 1995, the inaugural E3 was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The event featured more than 400 exhibitors and 40,000 attendees, and over the years, E3 had consistently managed to attract crowds of approximately 50,000 fans, industry journalists, and developers.

E3 2023 contributions to the community

In its early years, E3 attracted a lot of public attention to what was then a nascent industry, and its increasing influence is a major reason that console makers, publishers, and developers were able to gain a large share of the entertainment market. E3 contributed a lot to the video games industry over the years:

  • Showcasing new games. Game developers and publishers showcased new games, giving gamers a sneak peek at the games that were in development. Programmers would be in attendance, proudly showing off their games to the general public.
  • Generating hype. E3 was like the Christmas of the video game industry. Dozens of exciting announcements were jam-packed into a period of just a few exciting days to in-person crowds of boisterous fans. There were plenty of surprises and things to find out.
  • Networking. E3 was attended by gamers, developers, publishers, and the press, and this diverse mix of attendees meant all sorts of interesting things would happen.

E3 canceled

This year’s E3 was announced as a return to the Los Angeles Convention Center for the show’s first in-person event since 2019. The Entertainment Software Association had enlisted ReedPop, the company that produces PAX, Star Wars Celebration, and other fan-focused events, to run E3 2023. The plan for E3 2023 was to combine a gathering of publishers, developers, media, and buyers with “in-person consumer components” and digital showcases.

According to an email sent to employees, ​​ReedPop said that the cancellation of E3 2023 was because the event had not garnered the interest necessary for it to be executed in a way that would showcase the size, strength, and impact of the industry. ReedPop also indicated that they were aware that interested companies would not have playable demos ready in time for the event, and that companies may have had resourcing challenges that made their attendance at E3 an obstacle they could not overcome.

However, to many, the cancellation came as no surprise. As early as 2006, gaming companies had started to grow tired of pouring millions of marketing dollars into maintaining massive booths, flying out celebrities, and putting up giant billboards at E3, not to mention having to crunch on their hard-working developers to have something pipelined for the event. Multiple major publishers, including Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, had already announced that they would skip the 2023 event. Ubisoft also recently said it was pulling out of E3 to hold its own digital event, Ubisoft Forward, also in June.

For several years, the big publishing companies had realized that they did not need to pay so much to E3 to promote their brands, instead teasing information about their new games to fans through other channels, including YouTube livestream events. Without those major companies in attendance, and even with the presence of some of the more popular indie developers, E3 would not be able to provide the same exciting atmosphere that it had become famous for.

In addition to the growing disinterest from game publishers and console manufacturers over the years, fans had also been becoming disenchanted with E3 after it moved away from its socially oriented beginnings to becoming basically a massive commercial for the console manufacturers. Home live streaming events have long been accepted as an alternative to in-person conferences, especially with the huge shift during the COVID-19 pandemic toward online events, so as long as developers kept pushing out independent streams and features that fans could watch from the comfort of their own home, interest in E3 was bound to decline. For gaming fans, E3 was much more relevant when it was the only huge gaming news event and when it was the only time they would get to see reveal trailers and gameplay demos for upcoming releases; however, nowadays, gaming news is made available on the Internet almost instantly, further decreasing the relevance of E3. 

Another factor of the E3 event that gaming companies may no longer have wished to contend with is the fact that it was a high-pressure event. Developers were highly pressured to mount a show just to compete in the industry, and they would often be forced to announce news that was hardly more than a trailer for a title that was still half a decade away from release. Developers are unsurprisingly more than happy to just film their own presentations and show them on a day when there is no competing news. This avoids them having to walk journalists around for three days answering questions that may put them in a bad light, and instead, they can just get influencers to hype their games live on Twitch and YouTube.

If E3 is ever to stage a future comeback, it will need to get creative in addressing all of these challenges. E3 was an outsized event for a bullish young industry. Now, the gaming industry—and the target audience, the fans—needs to decide if it has outgrown this specific conference. 

Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.


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