As you may have already heard by now E3 2020 has been canceled. An official statement was issued by the ESA earlier today:
“After careful consultation with our member companies regarding the health and safety of everyone in our industry – our fans, our employees, our exhibitors, and our longtime E3 partners – we have made the difficult decision to cancel E3 2020, scheduled for June 9-11 in Los Angeles.”
“Following increased and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus, we felt this was the best way to proceed during such an unprecedented global situation. We are very disappointed that we are unable to hold this event for our fans and supporters. But we know it’s the right decision based on the information we have today.”
“Our team will be reaching out directly to exhibitors and attendees with information about providing full refunds.
We are also exploring options with our members to coordinate an online experience to showcase industry announcements and news in June 2020. Updates will be shared on E3expo.com.”
“We thank everyone who shared their views on reimagining E3 this year. We look forward to bringing you E3 2021 as a reimagined event that brings fans, media and the industry together in a showcase that celebrates the global video game industry.”
With PlayStation deciding to opt-out of the expo for the second year in a row and the sudden departure of key figures Geoff Keighley and iam8bit, it looks like the show was in trouble long before this virus posed a threat. In fact, E3, as it stands, has been declining in quality and relevance for several years now and is in need of a major overhaul.
I have attended E3 every year from 2001 – 2016. In that time I have watched the expo go from a celebration of all things gaming to an elitist nightmare that made attending feel like more of a chore than anything else. I remember my first E3 very fondly. It was the 2001 event and everyone was super hyped over Konami’s offerings (oh how times have changed) with trailers for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Silent Hill 2 luring huge crowds to the big screen every day of the expo that year. The game developers in attendance were noticeably excited to get their upcoming games into the hands of other members of the industry. Lines to play games were long but bearable. Those free bags that are available near the door once you enter the Convention Center would be full of swag by the end of the day and it was not uncommon to go home with 8-10 bags a day.
E3 was an industry-only trade event that to those of us in the industry was similar to the once a year trip to Disneyworld that many families take. The ESA, however, felt as if we were having too much fun….at a video game convention…so over the years, they began to strip the event down to a point where it just felt drab. The business part remained intact but there didn’t seem to be a viable reason to actually attend. By the time E3 opened it’s doors to the public, so much had changed that it had become almost a joke. Passes to E3 have always been free to members of the industry but if you did not get approved for one reason or another, a pass would cost you $500. Let’s be clear: E3 no matter how good it was has never been worth $500 to get in. That price has since risen to $995 and since the show has been opened up to the public, smaller companies have been denied the complimentary badges so that they can pay for either the $995 or the cheaper Gamer Badge that does not give them the same access as a Media Badge for example. To make matters worse getting your hands on a game on the show floor became nearly impossible with the increase in crowds and the poor planning on behalf of the show’s organizers.
I myself stopped going to E3 after 2016 in favor of just attending the press conferences leading up to the expo. After all, the best part of E3 is all of the new game announcements (and the after-parties of course) and trailers of games that most likely are too far off to be on the show floor anyway. With PlayStation not being there these past two years, my interest in physically being there has fallen to zero as this is a PlayStation themed website after all.
So while other cons such as Tokyo Game Show (my favorite show to attend) and Anime Expo still continue to impress, E3 could benefit from restructuring. This year it seems that we will still get all of the trailers and announcements we crave and that could possibly solve the entire problem. Companies like EA already have their own shows where gamers can get their hands on upcoming titles during E3 so why not have E3 itself become digital. The press conferences and announcements are fine but instead of putting demos in kiosks on the show floor, put them in the PlayStation Store for 3 days that week so that everyone all over the world that wants to try the game will have an opportunity to. PlayStation had something similar in the past when PlayStation Home was still live where they had a virtual E3 booth. And for the love of God don’t even think about charging hundreds of dollars to access them.
Whatever ends up actually happening to E3 beyond this year, I hope it becomes something that gets the industry excited again because the industry is constantly evolving and the industry’s biggest event needs to catch up.