E3 2021 is just 10 weeks away and we’ve still heard very little from The ESA regarding what this year’s event will (or won’t) entail. New reports now indicate that even if publishers and exhibitors opt to participate, they’ll be saving their bigger main reveals for other events outside of E3. These may come in the form of independent events, like Sony’s PlayStation State of Play and the Square Enix Presents showcase, or at other major industry events like gamescom, Tokyo Game Show, PAX, and as part of Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest, which is returning again this year.
This comes by way of a much larger report from VGC on E3 2021 and The ESA’s plans for the event, including verified documents from a pitch deck that was sent to publishers and potential exhibitors. That report led to a kerfuffle between the E3 organizers and VGC as The ESA walked back plans for paid premium elements of E3 2021 amid the rather negative feedback, despite pitching premium paid packages to publishers as recently as weeks ago.
As part of the report, VGC spoke with multiple publishing sources who indicated that they expected to have some content for the digital E3 2021, but that they would be reserving their bigger main reveals and announcements “for separate, independent digital events.” The cancellation of E3 2020, both as a physical and digital event, and the pandemic pushing everyone to stay at home last year helped publishers realize they didn’t need a centralized E3 in order to effectively bring attention to their games and announcements. Many publishers were already coming to that realization prior to 2020, with the likes of Activision, Sony, Microsoft, EA, and others separating themselves from the main E3 event more and more over the past few years.
Cost is also a major factor in that decision. Booth space at the physical E3 event was notoriously expensive and it looks like the digital event this year is follow suit. VGC says “joining E3’s schedule in a significant way still requires six figure” fees, and that E3 has reduced asking prices to exhibitors by a third since the start of year, likely in an effort to attract more support for the E3 2021 digital event.
While E3 has spoken up through its official Twitter account promising reveals and more info soon, we’re just 10 weeks from the supposed start of the show with little-to-no information about what to expect. E3 and The ESA haven’t even officially confirmed that the event won’t take place physically, despite all common sense saying that a physical expo is simply not happening with this short of notice. (For reference, media would have registered for press passes months ago and we’d already need to be deep into planning our trips, hotel stays, coverage plans, etc. in order to effectively cover the physical event.)
The report that publishers don’t plan to support E3 with their main big announcements shows a shaken faith in the once-industry-tentpole event. Many prominent industry figures have talked about their uncertainty with The ESA’s future plans for E3. While E3 was previously the place to expect the biggest reveals from any given publisher or developer, the event’s diminishing relevance in recent years continues to be more and more apparent. Prohibitive costs and the ability to control their own announcements means publishers are less likely to latch onto E3—especially an all-digital E3—as an effective use of their time, money, and energy when they could simply control that conversation themselves.