After skipping last year due to the pandemic, E3 will officially return in 2021 with a free online show running June 12-15th. The organisers say to expect participants including Microsoft, Ubisoft, Take-Two, and Nintendo. E3 is the biggest marketing event on the games industry’s calendar but last year its organisers didn’t arrange an online replacement after the pandemic ruled out an in-person show, leading to a weeks-long sprawl of unaffiliated alternatives organised by publishers and media. I never thought I’d say it but: I missed E3. Please return and save us from the endless NotE3.
Today’s announcement says yep, live press conferences are back with the four-day stream. It also notes that E3 2021 “will be a reimagined and hyper-engaged digital experience,” so it’s good to see they’ve not lost that E3 flair for fancy words which reveal nothing. A press release adds that they have “early commitments from Nintendo, Xbox, Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Games and Koch Media,” 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.”
The ESA add that they “[look] forward to coming back together to celebrate E3 2022 in person.” Sounds more like a hope than a commitment to me.
Sure, E3 is a big blast of marketing, but marketing is going to happen anyway. And I’ll definitely take a four-day marketing event over months of marketing events which show largely the same games and trailers. The NotE3 replacement events were impressive accomplishments, especially given the timescales they were organised on, but as a whole they were too much for me. NotE3 was too long and spread too thin. E3 is fun partially because it sweeps me up with four days of loud noises and bright colours, then vanishes like a cursed carnival leaving only tattered posters drifting on the wind.
I don’t think E3 will replace all of the events which sprung up to fill in for 2021, mind. Publishers clearly realised the benefits of picking when and where to run their own showcases, getting to dominate attention and headlines for days at a time rather than having their announcements and trailers thrown into a giant bucket with everyone else. Things were headed in that direction before 2020 anyway, with several huge companies already having pulled out in previous years. E3 still has value as a name and an anchor for the year’s marketing but I do think it’ll be irrecoverably diminished after skipping E3 2020. The ESA had planned to revitalise E3 in 2020 partially by turning the industry event into even more of a public event and spectacle. Instead, they sat it out.