Last year, amid a mismanaged pandemic and sweeping social distancing regulations, the Entertainment Software Association called off its annual E3 event. But the stretch between late May and early November was positively littered with digital showcases and press conference conferences. If you followed video games closely, you tuned in to a new event on what felt like a weekly basis.
This year is shaping up similarly. E3 is back, but as an all-digital event. Many of the industry’s biggest players are following suit, turning to digital presentations to relay the spree of trailers, updates, reveals, and “just one more thing”s to the masses. Here’s what we know is coming so far, and we’ll update this post as organizers confirm details about upcoming events.
Wholesome Direct – May 2021
Twee indie showcase Wholesome Direct will return this spring, organizer Wholesome Games announced in March. The idea behind Wholesome Direct is simple: present a slate of chill, low-stress games as a sort of antidote to the loud, bombastic games that tend to define these affairs. Date TBA, but Wholesome Direct’s submission form (since closed) says accepted presenters have until May 10 to get their ducks in a row, so the event likely won’t happen until some time after then.
Summer Game Fest – June 2021
Last year, Geoff Keighley kicked off the inaugural Summer Game Fest, a months-long show of appreciation for the ouroboros of video game hype. For the most part, this meant slapping a Summer Game Fest logo in front of partnered streams, lending the promotional muscle of Keighley’s apparatus to already existent events. (In July, Summer Game Fest made more than 70 demos of indie games available on Xbox.) The whole shebang is coming back this year. According to the Summer Game Fest’s website, it’ll “feature a more condensed schedule of events across less than a month.”
E3 – June 12 through June 15
The mother of all gaming events, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is back after taking 2020 off as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. This year, it returns as an all-digital event that, despite what rumors suggested, will be totally free. E3’s 2021 schedule hasn’t yet been revealed, but confirmed exhibitors include Nintendo, Xbox, Ubisoft, Capcom, Konami, Take-Two, Koch Media, and WB Games. Of those, only Ubisoft has confirmed a time and date. At the moment, Sony, Rockstar, Activision, and EA have not confirmed attendance.
Ubisoft Forward – June 12, at 3:00 p.m. ET
Ubisoft’s big summer press conference, Ubisoft Forward, will land on the first day of the E3. So, what might the French mega-publisher reveal? At the moment, Far Cry 6, Rainbow Six Quarantine, and Rider’s Republic don’t have release dates. Ubisoft’s big three map games from last year—Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Immortals Fenyx Rising—all have expansions in the wings. And that’s to say nothing of the other venerable franchises under Ubisoft’s umbrella. Maybe this is the year we finally get a new Splinter Cell?
PC Gaming Show + Future Games Show – June 13
This year, PC Gamer’s PC Gaming Show and GamesRadar’s Future Games Show will air as a double-header. The long-running PC Gaming Show will likely be what it always is (a spree of upcoming PC games), but the Future Games Show is newer to the circuit, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what we might see. The recent spring showcase, from March, showed more than 40 games over the course of two hours. (Two! Full! Hours!)
Pax Online – July 15 through July 18
Pax East, originally scheduled to run in early June, was cancelled and replaced with an all-digital event called Pax Online.
Game Developers Conference – July 19 through July 23
The annual Game Developers Conference will return this summer, but as an all-digital event, nonetheless featuring the same buffet of talks, panels, Q-and-A sessions, and networking events. Fair warning: It’s not free, and it sure isn’t cheap. Passes start at hundreds of dollars.
GamesCom Opening Night Live – August 24
Despite issues and setbacks in rolling out covid-19 vaccines throughout the European Union, GamesCom, famously held in Cologne, Germany, will be a physical event this year. But the opening ceremony—a marquee event fittingly called Opening Night Live—will be streamed globally. Like last year’s event, Geoff Keighley will host. Expect “world exclusives” and “world reveals.”