E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, has been a fixture in the gaming industry for nearly three decades. But now it seems the event has lost its purpose. With the pandemic that has forced the industry to adapt, E3’s importance has waned. Indeed, E3 2023 has been canceled and it is uncertain if the event will ever return.
One reason for the decline of E3 is the rise of digital events. Many major game companies now use pre-recorded video presentations to announce new games and console releases. These videos can be shared online and can be viewed by anyone, anywhere, without the need for an expensive booth at E3.
After 30 years, the curtain falls on E3
Nintendo Direct, which began in 2011, was one of the first successful digital events, and it paved the way for other companies to follow.
Pandemic has also shown that companies can launch entire console generations without significant hands-on opportunities prior to their debut. Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S were released in November 2020, and although limitations, created in part by the pandemic, made it nearly impossible to find them for years, these consoles have proven to be a success. Why would companies show new hardware at E3 in the future?
Previously, E3 was also a place for companies to do business in person, get face-to-face time and shake hands on stage to promote their brands. But even executives have been forced to learn how to do those things remotely during the pandemic, and may no longer need it.
PlayStation, Nintendo and Microsoft pull out
The major console manufacturers have been moving away from E3 lately anyway. PlayStation skipped E3 2019 in favor of hosting its own video presentations at different times throughout the year. Nintendo had already announced that it would not participate in this year’s E3, and while that does not preclude the company from making news in June, it might be content with letting The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom talk.
When Nintendo pulled out, I really started to worry that E3 2023 might not happen. But after Microsoft pulled back from the show floor this year in favor of its own showcase in Los Angeles around Starfield, it felt like the end was in sight.
But does this now mean the end of in-person conventions? No, certainly not. E3 hasn’t actually been the biggest game show for years – it’s one-sixth the size of Gamescom, held every year in Germany, and other shows abroad are bigger, too. And it doesn’t stop there.
E3 was already not the biggest anymore
Even in the United States, last week’s Game Developers Conference was still relevant and January’s Consumer Electronics Show was surprisingly fun, to name just two recent examples. E3 just doesn’t seem to meet the needs of the game industry anymore, and the industry has moved on. Digital events have proven to be an excellent way to announce the latest games and consoles, without requiring large investments for a booth on a trade show floor.
Whether E3 will ever return is uncertain, but regardless, the gaming industry will continue to offer new ways to reach their fans. Perhaps one day E3 will become relevant again, but for now it seems that the era of this iconic event is over.