E3 2020 is cancelled, but should it ever return?

A beloved tradition of gaming culture or a dated formality? Lennon and Boatfield discuss...

multiple writers
7th May 2020
Image: YouTube, Wikimedia
For the first time since the Electronic Entertainment Expo began in 1995, the event is cancelled! We're a month away from when E3 would normally be taking place, so writer Peter Lennon and Gaming editor George Boatfield are here to discuss the merits and drawbacks of the expo.

Yeah, it's something nice to look forward to!

We’ve all been impacted by the disruptive coronavirus, and yet, even if you were completely oblivious to global shutdown, the cancellation of E3 this year still might not have come as much of a surprise.

Indeed, there’s no denying that the yearly gaming expo has been on the downturn over the past couple of years. Since Sony’s blowout media briefing in 2016, companies have increasingly favoured an online-only format. This allows them greater control of their message and the opportunity to schedule announcements for whenever they like. So lo and behold, E3 has reduced media interest. While it is still the biggest date in the gaming calendar, there’s just no getting around its waning presence.

With that said, I’ve never been to America, and I certainly haven’t been to an E3 event in person. The change in format has yet to affect things on my end - the magic of E3 lingers on - so I don’t see why the coronavirus should be seen as a way to fast-track ending the show entirely.

There’s still something special about this season of too-good-to-be-true announcements and off-the-charts hype. With it often being described as an early Christmas for gamers, the bright new future for the medium put forward by E3 can lead to some of the most exciting times of the year. Personally, eagerly anticipating each media briefing, hunkered down beside my screen of choice with a suitably intimidating supply of snacks, is as much a part of summer as hot weather and August bank holidays.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me if announcements are made via in-person events or pre-recorded livestreams. What matters is getting this bevvy of announcements from a range of publishers about a breadth of experiences, and in such a condensed space of time. It stokes the gaming community into life, and provides something for players to look forward to. And now, when everyone can relate to needing something positive on the horizon, the merits of E3 should be easier to understand than ever.

George Boatfield

"E3 SHOULD BURN IN HELL!!!!!" - The Old Man and the Sea, Earnest Hemingway, 1952.

The headline of ‘E3 has been cancelled amid coronavirus concerns’ is something that shouldn’t come as any surprise at the moment. In fact, it’s really one that should almost be taken for granted, considering the annual event’s large attendance of journalists and gamers across the globe. But should E3 come back, even if the pandemic comes to a close?

Inaugurated in the summer of 1995, the Electronic Entertainment Expo has been a staple in both the gaming industry and pop culture for the last 25 years. Although it started as a closed event, E3 eventually expanded to live streams of their panels in 2017 as well as admittance to the public, selling 15,000 general admittance tickets.

Unfortunately – as there’s no denying that it has a special place in all our hearts – this expansion is a strong indicator that E3 has run its course. The truth of the matter is that most people don’t attend, opting to watch the presentations from the comfort of their own homes. So why should game developers go to great financial length, only to reach the same audience as Nintendo does through their own Direct streams?

While it would be arrogant to dismiss the smaller developers who attend to secure deals, E3 isn’t the only gaming event in the year – though it may seem that way to those less familiar with gaming culture. Moreover, plenty of indie developers have found success through fund-raising public benefit corporations, such as Kickstarter. Gaming has a wide and ultimately supportive community that will feed into the indie scene, as long as the idea is innovative.

Finally, as I mentioned at the start, E3 is attended by thousands of people from across the globe. In a more climate-change savvy world, wouldn’t it be prudent to reduce our carbon footprint by minimising our travel? It only makes sense to think digitally in the world of electronic gaming.

Peter Lennon

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