Following years of disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the gaming industry’s largest convention is now dead.
After more than two decades of events, the Electronic Entertainment Expo also known as E3 is officially shutting down.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents the games industry’s interests in the US and runs the event, confirmed the news yesterday (12 December).
In an interview with The Washington Post, ESA president and CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis said that while it’s difficult to say goodbye, it’s the right thing to do given the new opportunities the industry has to reach fans and partners.
The convention first began in 1995 with an event in the Los Angeles Convention Center with more than 400 exhibitors and 40,000 attendees. That initial event saw Sony promote its first PlayStation console and Sega show off its new Sega Saturn console.
From then, the convention grew in strength and while it wasn’t immune to the hurdles that come with event management, it continued to be a major destination for game trailer debuts, new hardware announcements and celebrity appearances. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr even joined Microsoft on stage to promote The Beatles Rock Band video game in 2009.
However, 10 years after that star-studded appearance, E3 would unknowingly put on its last in-person event. As the Covid-19 pandemic set in around the world, there were rumours in March that E3’s 2020 event would be cancelled. Of course, these early reports turned out to be true as the events industry had to reimagine in-person conferences while keeping people safe.
While 2019 was the last in-person iteration of the convention, 2021 saw its true final event in virtual form with an online-only event with free access to all. That summer, an in-person event was promised for 2022, but this too was cancelled in January 2022 due to the ongoing health risks surrounding Covid-19 at the time. Later that year, the ESA confirmed that there would also be no digital equivalent of the event.
Once again, an in-person event was confirmed for 2023 but in March of this year, this was scrapped as well. At the time, sources confirmed to IGN that the 2023 event “simply did not garner the sustained interest necessary to execute it in a way that would showcase the size, strength and impact of our industry.”
While the pandemic undoubtedly caused major disruptions, leading to many gaming players to find their own routes to fans, some had already started pivoting to a more direct approach outside the major convention. For example, Sony had already left the event in 2018.
However, in the wake of E3’s shutdown, Pierre-Louis told The Washington Post that the gaming industry is blossoming in different ways, which is exciting for the industry.
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