The gaming industry's most beloved trailer festival E3 will not be taking place in Los Angeles Convention Center this year, and potentially will not be returning.
News of E3 2023's cancellation has been brewing for weeks now as one by one publishers confirmed their non-attendance, leaving just Ubisoft of the usual big names on the ticket before even they pulled out. The Entertainment Software Association and event partner ReedPop have been struggling to find a form for E3 to take since its last in-person incarnation in 2019, before Covid-related cancellations and a relentless shift to publisher-organized Nintendo Direct-style announcements over streaming platforms.
But the confirmation of E3's cancellation came late last night, and despite reassurances from ESA's President and CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis that there is still an appetite for the event, the winds of change are feeling bitterly cold.
News of the latest wobble in E3's attempt to adapt to a new digital landscape prompted an outpouring of lamentation from journalists and fans who have a somewhat Stockholmian relationship with the extended weekend of entirely too many game trailers to pay attention to at once. All except one former journalist, as Geoff Keighley's rival Summer Game Fest wasted no time declaring its continued intention to show off what's next for avid gamers and product tie-in aficionados. Tweeting from the middle of the BAFTA game awards, even.
Here's 15-year old me at the first-ever E3 in 1995.— Geoff Keighley (@geoffkeighley) March 30, 2023
E3 meant so much to me and to so many of you too.
Four years ago, I realized that E3 wasn't evolving as it needed to compete in a global, digital world. So we started building what’s next. See at @summergamefest June 8. pic.twitter.com/wSZqpz3wjY
While Summer Game Fest will undoubtedly offer the same rapid-fire commercial extravaganza that had many an eager gamer glued to their screens over a June weekend every year, hoping for news of their next obsession – it is not E3. The same E3 that Geoff Keighley mourns with tales of his teenage exploits to get a photo with Duke Nukem does not exist, even as he claims to be building its replacement.
E3 offered fans a rallying point for their passion, but it also provided access for media – and aspiring media outfits – to provide an audience with in-depth sneak peeks at their favorite series and developers' next projects. Even in its sunset years, E3 was losing that edge. The continual shift of the games media landscape from organized collectives of writers and video makers to streaming platform personalities already made attendance a mixed bag.
By the time they opened the doors to public as well as press, the event became less of a fact-finding mission and more of a stage for bizarre internet dramas. Its final proper year possibly best known as That Time DrDisrespect Got Suspended From Twitch For Livestreaming A Guy At A Public Urinal. A far cry from the Final Fantasy 7 Remake reveal just four years prior, one of many moments in a Sony keystone presentation that continually outplayed itself as the night wore on.
Plenty of crowd-pleasing moments will come out of whatever schedule of publisher showcases and awards show advertisement breaks replace E3, but there is a loss to be felt. The trade show that allowed 15-year-old aspiring creators to talk to developers and publishers, getting news to their niche fan site audience. The playful digs at competitors, sharing the same stage at the end of the day. The sense that an industry divided along imaginary console war battle lines was all actually kayfabe and, ultimately, the community just wants to see some good games.
We'll continue to get the sparkly trailers and little developer showcase insights from extended streams popularized by Nintendo's E3 Treehouse format. But we'll miss it nonetheless.