Following a year off due to the pandemic, E3 will return in 2021 with a free online display from June 12 to 15. Microsoft, Ubisoft, Take-Two, and Nintendo are among the companies expected to attend, according to the organizers. While E3 is the largest marketing event on the games industry’s calendar, its organizers failed to plan an online replacement after the pandemic ruled out an in-person exhibition, resulting in a weeks-long smorgasbord of unaffiliated alternatives from publishers and the media. I never thought I’d say it, but E3 was one of my favorite shows. Please,
Yes, live press conferences are back with a four-day broadcast, according to today’s announcement. It also says that E3 2021 “will be a reimagined and hyper-engaged multimedia experience,” which is nice to see they haven’t lost their E3 flair for cryptic language. They have “early commitments from Nintendo, Xbox, Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Games, and Koch Media,” according to a press release, and expect more.
“For more than two decades, E3 has been the premier venue to showcase the best that the video game industry has to offer, while uniting the world through games,” said Stanley Pierre-Louis, the president of the Entertainment Software Association. “We are evolving this year’s E3 into a more inclusive event, but will still look to excite the fans with major reveals and insider opportunities that make this event the indispensable center stage for video games.”
“[We] look forward to getting back together to celebrate E3 2022 in person,” the ESA says. To me, it sounds more like a wish than a vow.
Sure, E3 is a major marketing event, but marketing happens all the time. And I’ll take a four-day marketing event over months of marketing events that display the same games and trailers over and over. The NotE3 replacement events were incredible achievements, particularly considering the timeframes on which they were planned, but they were too much for me as a whole. NotE3 was far too long and dispersed. E3 is entertaining in part because it engulfs me for four days with loud noises and vivid colors, then vanishes like a cursed carnival, leaving only tattered posters fluttering in the breeze.
Mind you, I don’t think E3 will be able to replace any of the events that have sprung up to step in for 2021. Publishers obviously saw the value of being able to choose when and where to run their own showcases, gaining control over attention and headlines for days at a time rather than having their announcements and trailers tossed into a giant bucket of everyone else’s announcements and trailers. Things were already going in that direction before 2020, with many major corporations withdrawing in previous years. While E3 retains its value as a brand name and a marketing anchor for the year, I believe its value will be irreversibly diminished if it is not kept in 2020. The ESA had hoped to revitalize E3 in 2020 by making it something of a public event and spectacle. Instead, they chose to stay at home.