E3 expo sets June return date

The Electronic Entertainment Expo will return this year after a forced cancellation in 2020.

Instead of a packed Los Angeles Convention Center filled with thousands of fans, journalists and video game exhibitionists, this new E3 will be a “reimagined, all-virtual” event set for June 12-15 with some of the industry’s largest publishers scheduled to return.

The Entertainment Software Association announced Tuesday that Nintendo, Microsoft, Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Games and Koch Media will all be in attendance. Additional publishers and developers may still join in the months leading up to the event. The ESA promises that game developers and publishers will showcase their games at E3 2021, “directly to fans around the world. All E3 content will be free to access this year.

“We are evolving this year’s E3 into a more inclusive event, but will still look to excite the fans with major reveals and insider opportunities that make this event the indispensable center stage for video games,” said Stanley Pierre-Louis, president and CEO of the ESA.

The ESA hopes to return to its classic in-person E3 in 2022.

Tuesday’s announcement came as somewhat of a surprise for many, as the prevailing thought throughout the industry was that E3 and the ESA were on their last legs. Attendance, even as the public was invited in over the last several years, continued to decline each year. Many publishers, and even hardware manufacturers, opted out of partaking in E3 itself, instead opting to host their own events in their own facilities around the same time in order to cash in on the cultural zeitgeist that E3 brings with it each year. Despite its lagging numbers, it still brought more mainstream attention to the video game industry than any other event throughout the year, including Gamescom in August or The Video Game Awards in December.

But many felt the idea of one concentrated in-person convention for three days in the middle of what is often the most crucial development time for fall titles was a bad idea. Developers have often commented on how they would spend months dedicated to producing a vertical slice gameplay demo just for E3 and other conventions — a demo that would be immediately abandoned once convention season had passed. Teams would be forced to pull resources from the main title in order to complete the demo to show the public in order to build hype.

After last year’s E3 was canceled due to Covid-19, Microsoft and Sony, along with numerous other partners, opted to host smaller digital events throughout the summer in what was called the, “Summer Game Fest.” It didn’t work out very well. Microsoft and Sony were both in the midst of trying to build hype for their next generation consoles, and every time an event was held, it left most fans underwhelmed and disappointed. Games designed to be played in 4K resolution with high framerates looked poor while viewed on heavily compressed 1080p streams. A second “Summer Game Fest” is planned again for this summer, hopefully with better results.

Notably missing from this year’s E3 list were Sony, EA and Bethesda. The former two haven’t been at E3 in several years, again opting to host their own events. Sony has played its cards close to its vest for the last year. EA will most likely offer a first glimpse at its new “Battlefield” this year. Bethesda will be the interesting aspect this year. Now that the company is technically owned by Microsoft, it’s still operating fairly independently for the moment. If its new titles are featured in Microsoft’s conference, that’s going to make for a major setup.

It’s still early in the year, but it’s good to see some normalcy trying to return in all walks of life. E3 won’t be the same this year, but at least it’s returning in some form.

Josh Rouse lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gaming column for The Lawton Constitution.

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