Well, it was bound to happen. With the fears of the coronavirus spreading en masse, it was a matter of time before major events were either postponed or cancelled. E3 unfortunately, just happened to be the latest victim.
Look, cancelling major events should never be viewed in a positive lens. They are financially damaging to the host city. There are a number of vendors, big and small, who will be financially impacted and it’s incredibly unfortunate because of all the work that goes in to making these functions presentable. In the case of E3 however, this was just bad timing.
In years past, E3 was the sole source for gathering information about the gaming industry. Millions of people watching at home would be able to catch a glimpse of the future. But recent E3’s have seen major publishers pull out, instead opting to have their presentations come in the form of direct online presentations. Honestly, its cleaner this way, no need to make last-minute adjustments if something crashes, the publisher has direct control and can ensure that everything proceeds smoothly.
Nintendo started this trend, with their direct presentations being content heavy, featuring announcements regarding present and future plans. These are generally well received and can occur at regular intervals. It practically eliminates the need for a physical presentation. Sony, not to be outdone, followed suit and created the State of Play, which serves the same function, but are usually very brief.
Unlike Nintendo, who still has a presence at E3, Sony has pulled out of the event completely. This has drawn its faireshare of criticism but the truth is, they’re right. E3 was an industry event that became a spectacle, but the past few years have been rough. Advancements in social media have allowed companies to stay at home and communicate with their consumer base to the point where a physical presence at an industry event isn’t needed.
Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft have the resources to host their own functions. They don’t need a major convention to act as a hype machine, because they can use their own assets to accomplish that objective. Industry events like E3 primarily affect smaller developers as this is their time to showcase their work in hopes of finding a major publisher. While this is definitely a blow to those efforts, there will be other events to network and develop relationships.
If E3 makes a return next year, then the ESA needs to make wholesale changes to reignite interest. Direct presentations are easier to manage and there is no need to shell out an exorbitant amount of money to rent out a hall or build an exhibit. Unless major changes are made to next years events, developers and publishers will look to the digital space to host their presentations. E3 might be dead in the water as a result.