E3 2021 may have just received its first details today, but The Entertainment Software Association is already looking towards the future. The E3 organizers have confirmed that E3 2022 is planned as an in-person physical event, one that will build on the foundations paved by what the “reimagined” E3 2021 is doing with its virtual “hyper-engaged” event this year.
“The ESA looks forward to coming back together to celebrate E3 2022 in person,” the E3 2021 press release concludes, confirming that next year’s event is planned to return to normal, though just how normal is up in the air.
Even before the pandemic upset the natural order of industry events for 2020, E3 was already facing some pressure to adapt. Exhibitors were beginning to migrate away from the overly expensive booth space in favor of private meeting rooms for industry networking, connecting directly with their audience via digital events, and even just not participating in E3 altogether. We noted that E3 2019 felt very empty compared to prior years. It was facing an identity crisis, caught between being a premiere industry trade show and a consumer expo. E3 2020 was the first time the event had been canceled in 25 years. E3 2022 will be the first physical E3 event since E3 2019.
E3 organizers also faced a lot of scrutiny and criticism after a massive leak of private attendee information in 2019, as well as their subsequent mishandling of the situation, caused many to lose even more trust in the show.
Many prominent industry figures have shown discomfort and reluctance about E3’s plans for adaptions in recent years. Sony stepped away completely in 2019. Activision has reduced its presence drastically. EA and Microsoft both split off to hold their own E3 adjacent events. Notable industry hype man Geoff Keighley was quoted as saying he didn’t “feel comfortable” with participating in E3 last year (prior to its cancellation), and creative directors iam8bit resigned from the show. Former Nintendo executive Reggie Fils-Aime also said that The ESA’s plans for E3 2021 didn’t seem “all that compelling.”
Still, E3 has adapted and evolved before, and plans for an E3 2022 physical event show a resilience and persistence from The ESA to get E3 back on its feet, no matter what it takes. Details surrounding E3 2022’s return to the physical event space are light for now. We don’t know if it will return to the LA Convention Center (though that’s more than likely the plan) or if The ESA will keep the new “Electronic Entertainment Experience” branding that E3 2021 is under for the physical event too. It seems that the idea is to be a beacon for the video game industry; a place to engage the consumers while also providing meaningful networking for members of the industry and media. How well The ESA can execute on that idea remains up in the air, but if they pull off the all digital E3 2021 should provide a good early indicator.