E3 2021 will be an online-only event, says report

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Elon Musk and Todd Howard after their panel discussion during 2019’s E3 Coliseum event | Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for E3/Entertainment Software Association

ESA is ‘transforming the E3 experience for 2021’

E3’s organizers are developing an online format for this year’s expo, according to a report, and the Entertainment Software Association has confirmed that it is “transforming the E3 experience for 2021.”

Planning documents obtained by Video Games Chronicle call for an awards show, a preview kickoff night, and two-hour keynotes delivered by major publishers and industry partners.

In a statement given Monday, an ESA representative said the organization “will soon share exact details on how we’re bringing the global video game community together.”

The ESA scrubbed E3 2020 in March of last year, at the same time major sports and entertainment promotions began shutting down operations in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first time in 25 years that the event was not held. In its place, developers and publishers staged several online-only events through June and July.

Geoff Keighley — the organizer of winter’s The Game Awards — and Twitch also launched the first Summer Game Fest in E3’s absence. Keighley confirmed in a statement Monday that Summer Game Fest would return for 2021.

E3 has been the biggest event on video gaming’s promotional calendar for almost a quarter century. A “Judge’s Week” of closed-door demonstrations for upcoming games normally precedes it. Whether they’re on the show floor or not, June is usually the time that publishers, console makers, and developers reveal their plans for the coming year.

But, as an online-only event, E3 could become lost in the crowd of streaming events and fan festivals that have grown up independently of the expo.

Nintendo moved its E3 presentation to an online-only Nintendo Direct event back in 2013; Sony and PlayStation stopped participating in the expo in 2019. Keighley organized the E3 Coliseum event, open to the public and outside the Los Angeles Convention Center, starting in 2017. Electronic Arts moved its E3 presence to the offsite “EA Play” gathering beginning in 2016, and PC Gamer’s lengthy PC Gaming Show live stream, also independent of E3, has been a fixture since 2015.

Video Games Chronicle said “multiple games publishing sources” were making summer plans that assumed an in-person E3 would not be happening in 2021. Whatever the ESA’s plans are for E3 2021, they must be approved by its membership.

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