Despite how inevitable the complete downfall of E3 felt over the past several years, E3 2023’s official cancellation still strings as it’s a significant loss for the game industry. For gamers, press, and developers, the show served multiple purposes that digital livestreams and scattered publisher-specific events don’t currently replicate. In lieu of E3’s cancelation this year, and potentially forever, it’s time for other gaming events to step up and help push the video game industry forward.
Why we lost E3
I’m lucky enough to have the experience of attending three E3 shows across 2017, 2018, and 2019 and many publisher-run events focused on specific games or tighter game lineups. In its final years, E3 felt like the perfect middle ground to the gamer-focused PAX and industry-focused GDC, where people from all walks and sides of the video game industry could come together, see what’s coming in the future, and share their love for games.
It also felt more freeing than publisher-run events, as I discovered and experienced games of all sizes that I may not have otherwise and got to meet many people from every angle of the game industry. Apparently, the Entertainment Software Association struggled to convince enough people that this style of expo was important four years after the last physical event.
In an interview with, Entertainment Software Association president Stanley Pierre-Louis blamed E3 2023’s cancellation on the Covid-19 pandemic, “economic headwinds” due to the current recession that impacted marketing budgets, and the fact that “companies are starting to experiment with how to find the right balance between in-person events and digital marketing opportunities.”
The first two are understandable and have impacted a lot of physical events over the past couple of years. Still, the last reason speaks to a bit more worrying of a shift for those looking to network, get attention from the press, get a broader look at the industry’s future, or even pitch a game.
What we lose
Events are a great way for indies to get unexpected and much-needed attention from players and the press; look at the chance encounter that got one of our team’s freelancers hooked on Homeseek at PAX East. Now, indies will have to hope to gain attention at those more indie-focused events like PAX or be cherry-picked to be featured in a more prominent company’s showcasing. There’s also the networking and pitch factor to it.
As a journalist, in-person events are a great place to network, but that’s doubly true for game developers. E3’s forward-looking industry view served as a hotspot for developers to network with each other and even pitch their games to publishers. Once again, the removal of E3 means that it’ll be a lot harder for some developers to make the connections or get the deals they need to be successful in the industry. And this is something that none of the current replacements can likely replicate. Summer Game Fest is currently purely focused on its announcement-driven livestream and press demos, and neither Xbox nor Ubisoft has revealed a developer-focused aspect of their summer plans.
In terms of announcements, I definitely like the Nintendo Direct-style digital presentation approach most notable gaming companies have embraced over the past couple of years. That said, there’s no denying it’s a much more curated experience. Publishers get to present what they want players to see exactly how they want to see it, leading to far fewer stage or demo foibles that can be equally hilarious or charming.
They also aren’t competing as much for the attention of players, which could lead to a lesser amount of the bold moments that helped make E3 iconic. A string of publisher-run events will be good for publishers and fans just looking for hype. That said, this approach is not nearly as beneficial for those looking to network or make their way into the games industry, indies to get equal attention to AAA heavy hitters, press who are looking for hidden gems, and players who want the most honest, if exorbitant, look at what their favorite developers are working on.
Nothing will completely replicate and replace E3 1:1. Still, the pressure is undoubtedly increased on Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest and Xbox and Ubisoft’s events to make something engaging, appealing, and useful to gamers, press, and developers. They need to step it up in a world without E3.