The COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for mass shutdowns of planned events for the majority of 2020, and E3 was no exception. But even before the lockdowns took place in the United States, E3 2020 was facing pushback from major publishers who each pulled out of the event.
Activision and Sony abandoned the planned event citing that E3 needed to be reformed to match what each company’s plans were. This was the second year in a row that Sony decided not to attend E3, and on the same year the PS5 was set to launch. More companies decided to host their own digital events after E3 2020 was officially cancelled and each happened to be very successful. Publishers like Electronic Arts, Microsoft, and Ubisoft might continue to distance themselves from E3 events in the future in order to focus more on their own events.
The Electronic Software Association (ESA) was responsible for a leak of personal information from nearly 2,000 members of the media not long after E3 2019. This incident caused many media partners to become distrustful of the ESA, whose top priority now is gaining back the level of trust present before the 2019 event.
Many creative directors also decided not to attend E3 2020. Geoff Keighly, who had hosted many E3 shows in the past, expressed in February 2020 that he didn’t feel comfortable participating in the expo. This was the first time in 25 years that Keighly decided not to attend E3. Later that year he went on to launch the Summer Game Fest, which attained a decent level of success.
Even before the pandemic took place, publishers and industry figures were demanding for E3 to reinvent itself. For 2021, the ESA had no choice but to reinvent the Electronic Entertainment Expo by announcing live-streamed coverage for the event from June 15-17.
The ESA is committed to a plan to have multiple keynote sessions, previews, award shows, and individual streams from companies and influencers. The ESA’s proposal also includes plans for remotely streamed demos playable for members of the media across a heavy amount of scheduled meetings paired with one-on-one assistance from developers.
The ESA has yet to give all of the details about the reimagined version of E3 to the public, but has stated that all will be revealed in due time. None of the publishers that backed out last year have made any announcements of their return to this year’s virtual expo. No one knows if they will return or if the show will have to go on without a number of its star players. After the ESA releases more information about E3 2021, we will see if its rebranding will be sustainable or else the expo will become a shadow of its former self.