The age of the week-long gaming conference is over. Long live the digital event. In a recent announcement, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced E3 2021 will go ahead this June, but a little differently than in year’s past. While last year’s showcase was ultimately cancelled due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, E3 will return in 2021, likely as an all-digital event.
This news was originally shared by VGC, who obtained an ESA proposal for a ‘reimagined’ virtual show containing multiple two-hour keynotes, an awards component, a preview night and partnered streams from a variety of content creators and publishers. According to the report, the event would be rebroadcast at certain times so the entire globe could tune in.
At the time of the initial report, this event was reportedly unconfirmed and waiting on the support of ESA industry members.
The digital plan now appears to be moving ahead, with the ESA confirming talks are well underway and more information about the event will be available soon.
“We can confirm that we are transforming the E3 experience for 2021 and will soon share exact details on how we’re bringing the global video game community together,” a spokesperson for the ESA stated in response to the VGC report. “We are having great conversations with publishers, developers and companies across the board, and we look forward to sharing details about their involvement soon.”
Given E3 is typically a digital-only event for Australians, this likely won’t be a huge change for those who want to tune in. The nature of the digital event being global could mean improved conference times and less 4 a.m. wake up calls, but for now we don’t know what the schedule will entail.
More to the point, E3 is in a strange place in 2021.
Even before coronavirus, the event was in a tailspin, with many publishers like Sony and Nintendo choosing to forgo E3 entirely and hold their own conferences instead. It meant 2019 and 2020 were filled with many smaller and sporadic digital events.
Last year was a testing ground for major publishers as digital became the only form of disseminating information to the public. This took the form of snappy PlayStation presentations, the IGN-led Summer of Gaming celebration and other excellent online shows through the year. It’s a formula that works. Arguably, these publisher-led shows worked better than the mad week-long scramble of E3 because they were more spread out and focussed, and they were given time to breathe.
It’s hard to see how E3 2021 can draw the disparate strings of the games industry back together. With the year we’ve had, it might be that the cat’s out of the bag for good.
We’ll know more when the ESA officially confirms the plans for this year’s show.
E3 2021 is currently scheduled for June 15-17, 2021. Stay tuned for more information as we get closer to the event.