After canceling last year’s show due to the coronavirus pandemic, E3 is back, baby. VGC reports that according to E3 2021 pitch documents that have been made available to publishers, the ESA is planning to bring the show back in a digital capacity after a virtual E3 2020 “failed to materialize” last year.
The show this year looks to consist of livesteams from publishers big and small with the same bells and whistles you’ve come to expect from E3. At the forefront of the effort will be the return of the not entirely necessary two-hour press conferences, which are the primary draw of attendees and viewers due to the slew of new announcements they hold. With no physical E3 last year, and the waning usefulness of the event and space, publishers took it in their own hands to deliver their news digitally last year to great success, even if the scattered presentations amounted to what felt like a thinly connected E3 spread over the course of three to four months.
Geoff Keighley, who seems to be behind every major livestreamed games event, is interestingly not going to be a part of E3 this year, after running their E3 Coliseum streams the last few years. Keighley, who departed from plans for E3 2020 over differences in how the show should be run, confirmed to VGC he would not be working with the ESA to realize E3 2021. In lieu of participating at E3 last year, Keighley instead created the Summer Games Festival, the aforementioned months-long digital E3 substitute that loosely tied everything together and seemed to take off relatively well.
This year’s E3 is scheduled to take place between Jun. 15-17, where the plan looks to be to run three days of livestreams. There will be press conferences, but also apparently an awards show, a preview night and “smaller streams from games publishers, influencers and media partners,” according to VGC.
In order to make up for the inability to play demos behind closed doors or on the typical showfloor, the plan seems to be to digitally offer previews to media in the week before to allow for coverage before also making demos available to consumers on their respective gaming platforms through the show. This seems in line with how some publishers have handled previews since the pandemic, and also how the ongoing Steam Games Festival has approached getting upcoming titles in the hands of players.
While the pivot to a digital event is welcome, it seems like the ESA may have a hard time getting publishers to sign on. A source that spoke to VGC seemed to confirm they’d be carrying out their own showcase to avoid paying a “six-figure” sum to be a part of E3 2021’s digital show.
The ESA has struggled in the last few years as they’ve tried to maintain a need for E3. Opening up the show to non-press attendees seemed to work to get fans in and generate money, even if the show itself hadn’t properly adjusted and left the floor experience lacking and infuriating for both parties. When the experience was further adjusted for fans, the show proved alienating for developers and publishers, who either dropped from attending or didn’t even have room on the floor to show up to anymore. Worst of all, the ESA was found to have leaked the information of thousands of attendees of its 2019 event, the majority of the information pertaining to the media who had registered for the event, which included the press and influencers. Subsequently, the information of thousands more attendees of past events was similarly leaked.
Even before the pandemic, publishers like Sony had completely left the show for their own expo and digital showcases, challenging E3’s assertion that it was a necessary show for publicity. EA, which has played nice with E3, doesn’t even technically host their event out of the same convention center as the rest of the show is housed in but hosts it at the same time for convenience. With a whole year under their belts of running their respective shows on their own, it’s a wonder which publishers would sign up for an E3 or if some can even afford to if these pitch documents are to be believed.