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E3 2023 Has Been Cancelled. Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Why is it that the games industry loves a games show, but doesn’t want E3?

Once the largest and most well-known video game industry show, E3 has had its 2023 airing abruptly cancelled.

The show has fallen foul of a combination of companies either outwardly showing no interest in exhibiting or – the killer blow – companies that first said that they would, then – in the face of dwindling interest elsewhere – pulled the plug at the last minute.

E3 – certainly since its golden era pre-2006 – has been a house of cards. When one big name pulls out the others get first-night nerves… The physical show had been cancelled for the previous two years – although it did see a digital-only showcase in 2021 – due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing restrictions.

This year, in a triumphant return, E3 was set to go ahead as a return to a live, in-person event being a collaboration between original showrunners the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) and event organisers ReedPOP.

But now it has been officially confirmed that E3 2023 has been cancelled after nearly every major video game publisher and developer, including heavyweights like Sony, Nintendo, Xbox and Ubisoft pulled out. In an email apparently sent to attendees, and quoted by gaming outlet IGN, the reason for the cancellation was that it, “Simply did not garner the sustained interest necessary to execute it in a way that would showcase the size, strength, and impact of our industry.”

This message now greets visitors to E3’s homepage

It’s a death very much reminiscent of that following the 2006 show – the biggest and most ludicrously expensive E3 ever – with PlayStation 3 Vs Xbox 360 in full stride and big-name stands costing anything from $5 to $10 million to pull off.

With surging crowds (no longer limited to business and press but anyone with a website and business card) and insane costs from its central LA Staples Center venue, the show imploded as the industry’s giants pondered just how much benefit they were getting for their buck. First went Activision… Then EA… Then everyone else.

Now, it appears that that self-same circle of life (and death) has revolved once more with the added incline of coming back after Covid meaning that 2023’s hill became too steep to get the E3 show moving.

The melancholy death of E3

The above is echoed in an interview given by president and CEO of the ESA, Stanley Pierre-Louis, to GamesIndustry.biz. He noted three key factors that killed E3 2023: “First, several companies have reported that the timeline for game development has been altered since the start of the Covid pandemic. Second, economic headwinds have caused several companies to reassess how they invest in large marketing events. And third, companies are starting to experiment with how to find the right balance between in-person events and digital marketing opportunities.”

Over the course of the pandemic, in an effort to continue to appeal to a booming market for gaming, many companies began embracing alternative arrangements and running their own shows. It appears that E3’s return to the gaming market found it to be a very different animal to what it had once been and for some, the potential benefits were simply not tangible enough to continue with their participation.

For many, the cancellation of E3 may seem like the end of an era, for others it could only be a minor stumbling block for one of the gaming industry’s biggest shows. Certainly, off the back of a massive GDC 2023, there’s no indication any other events are slowing down. 

As before, E3 will doubtless return. But in what, beleaguered shape, we wonder…

This article was first published on PocketGamer.biz.

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