15 Dec, 23

E3, once gaming’s biggest expo, is officially dead


The Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, is officially dead. “After more than two decades of E3, each one bigger than the last, the time has come to say goodbye. Thanks for the memories,” the Entertainment Software Association, E3’s organizer, wrote on X. The industry trade group wrote closed out the statement with “GGWP” or “good game, well played.”

E3’s troubles have been well documented in recent years, with the pandemic arguably exacerbating the video game expo’s demise. There hadn’t been an in-person E3 since 2019. The 2021 edition took place virtually, but the ESA canned the 2020, 2022 and 2023 events entirely.

The ESA told its members this spring that after major names pulled out of this year’s planned E3, the event “simply did not garner the sustained interest necessary to execute it in a way that would showcase the size, strength and impact our industry.” ReedPop, the organizer of PAX and New York Comic Con, was set to run E3 2023 before the event was canned.“We know the entire industry, players and creators alike have a lot of passion for E3. We share that passion,” ESA president and CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis told The Washington Post. “We know it’s difficult to say goodbye to such a beloved event, but it’s the right thing to do given the new opportunities our industry has to reach fans and partners.”

In truth, the writing was on the wall before any of us had heard of COVID-19. Sony, the biggest publisher in the industry, opted not to take part in the 2019 edition. EA declined to hold an E3 press conference that year too, instead choosing to run its own EA Play showcase a few days before the industry event.

Many publishers no longer need an E3 to show off their upcoming slate of games. It used to be the case that they needed to strike deals with retailers to secure shelf space for their games and hardware ahead of the holiday season, and those agreements were often struck at E3. But the industry has changed significantly in recent years. While a ton of big games arrived this past October, publishers now release major titles throughout the year (in large part to help them meet quarterly revenue targets). Others focus on supporting long-term live-service games that aren’t beholden to any release calendar. Digital game sales also mean that publishers and platform holders don’t have to worry as much about partnerships with retailers.

Another key reason for E3’s demise is that publishers can now show off their games to fans directly at any time and without having to struggle for attention against competitors at a trade show. The likes of Nintendo and Sony command the attention of hundreds of thousands of fans whenever they hold a Nintendo Direct or State of Play. There are so many ways for major publishers to get out the word about their games that E3 is no longer necessary in that regard. Skipping E3 also meant that publishers don’t have to deal with the costs of attending a trade show or meeting another entity’s deadlines for having demos or trailers ready.