When it was announced that there would be no Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in 2020, a lot of people were pretty frustrated. This wasn’t the first event to be canceled in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was likely the biggest one for gaming. E3 has been a tradition going back decades and a lot of news and hype generally comes out of it. But is it a tradition worth continuing? That’s a hard question to answer
On the surface, E3 doesn’t seem all that necessary and its disappearance might not effect gaming in any immediately discernible way. For one, there are already a lot of other events throughout the year and publications generally provide a pretty steady stream of coverage. People would still be informed. Beyond that, though, the biggest players in gaming have demonstrated that they can excite gamers without a need to be at E3.
Even before E3 was canceled for 2020, Sony had planned on skipping it. That would make for two years in a row. The reasons are likely plentiful but the show was already noticeably diminishing in popularity, many times smaller than Europe’s Gamescom. Beyond that, most of the news out of E3 was streamed to gamers everywhere. Sure, some writers could get their hands on the games on the show floor, as could attendees who paid for tickets, but how valuable are previews, really? Everybody knows they’re pretty curated experiences. Sony does just fine on their own, without the need to pay for space at E3. Their livestreamed PS5 announcement was an absolutely huge event that drew an impressive audience.
Nintendo has taken a similar route. While they do show up to E3, and flaunt one of the most impressive areas on the whole show floor, they also regularly host their own events called Nintendo Directs. They consistently trend on Twitter, consistently lead to “round up” style news articles, and keep gamers engaged with Nintendo’s products. They sometimes feature a single game, sometimes announce major products, sometimes announce a wealth of indies, and sometimes just cover patches and additions to existing products. They keep a fun tone and are just genuinely enjoyable. I’m not certain Nintendo needs E3.
In all fairness, E3 does help smaller developers who manage to get booths inside. It can be hard to get people interested in your game, even if it’s amazing, because the market is so saturated. But having a booth in a place where gamers wander can open up doors. I remember seeing the developer of Celeste demoing TowerFall in a parking lot away from the show floor. People were having genuine fun with it and the people I played matches with were immediately interested in the competitive yet silly gameplay. Laughs were had and I followed the project from there on out. I bought the game on release, I bought TowerFall Ascension when that came out, and I was incredibly interested in Celeste when that was announced. This isn’t an uncommon tale.
But, again, this sort of thing can easily occur at places like PAX East, even if that isn’t really a press event. So I am of the opinion that we, perhaps, do not need E3 in gaming. Sure, it might seem strange for a while, but we’ll adapt. After all, we’re making it through this year without it and it’s hard to say I miss it. It’s not like the gaming world stopped spinning.