E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, was cancelled for 2023 after two years of virtual or partially virtual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What happened?
Vendors and Electronics
E3 was the place to unveil consumer electronics, especially video games and video game consoles. It wasn’t ever an underdog, either – from the very beginning, the E3 convention sold all or almost all of its booths and packed out the convention center it was hosted in. If a booth made it to E3, that booth would be exposed to thousands of people, plus anyone filming who’d show them to more.
Conventions and expositions like E3 are fantastic ways for big companies to show off their cool new toys. Microsoft has a new Xbox console? Announce it at E3, and it’ll go viral. Nintendo is announcing a new game? They’ll announce it everywhere, of course, but by showing it off at E3 alongside everywhere else, they’ll continue to build hype. Lots of smaller companies designing tools, handheld gadgets, indie video games, and more are also welcome to bask in the glory of the Electronic Entertainment sector.
COVID Hates Fun
COVID changed the way people handled in-person events, perhaps permanently. E3, like everyone else, cancelled the event it had planned for 2020 in order to keep people from contracting the disease at their convention. This was smart. Unfortunately, at the time, they had no virtual demo plans. There wasn’t enough time to put it together.
2021, much the same, except they had the time to plan for a free to attend virtual-only event and successfully pulled it off, with their big exhibitors present, teasing such games as Halo Infinite and Elden Ring.
Unfortunately, E3 2022 was cancelled both virtually and physically – but many of the potential exhibitors had planned to unveil tech at the expo, so June still meant a wave of new games and new tech were announced by the major gaming and tech companies. 2022, still largely considered part of the pandemic years, is not really a great indicator of how any business is going to be doing the next year or the year after.
Leaving For Virtual and Personally-Branded Conventions
Sega. Ubisoft. Sony. Nintendo. Microsoft. All of these once-steady members of the convention, deciding individually to either do their own thing or only hang out with E3 virtually, is practically a death sentence. That’s what everyone is saying, but is that actually true? We don’t know yet!
By not investing in an event that lacks its biggest draws, they’re saving money and their reputation. While a cancellation is a bad sign, an even worse option would have been hosting an event with peanuts for entertainment and taking on a lot of additional expense just for the sake of maintaining a traditional schedule. Dashcon, an infamous convention scheduled and executed by people who had no experience doing so, still has photos of its empty convention center and sad ball pit circulating. Tanacon, a show run with limited space but unlimited free tickets, suffered the opposite problem and made quite a few fans upset. To end up like Dashcon or Tanacon is a total failure scenario. All that money spent with nothing to show for it except the knowledge that E3 is “over” would make it so.
By delaying, E3 buys time. The COVID pandemic is still raging, a lot of things are changing, there isn’t a huge list of new consoles hitting the market like there normally is, so realistically, even if all of these big vendors did show up to exhibit, they might not have much to demo. It’s totally possible they pull it back next year, or downsize, or re-orient. We don’t know for certain what their plan is, but two cancellations, with one of them the year after the lockdowns stopped, is not the end. Hold out hope!