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E3 is dead. Now what?

Publishers, developers and journalists reflect on the show's downfall, the current state of game events, and whether anything can (or should) fill the void

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After more than two decades as the industry's most prominent trade show, E3 is dead.

Its demise is unsurprising (even expected, depending on who you talk to) but this still marks a significant moment, and one that saddens much of the games industry and the media.

"It's been a fairly long and drawn out end for E3, with the COVID years adding to that, and as such it [is] sad yet good to finally conclude that chapter in our industry's history," says Morten Larssen, CCO at Raw Fury, who attended every E3 from its inaugural show in 1995.

"The magic of E3 was fantastically well represented in the mid-'90s to the mid-2000s for me, where it was by far the definitive show to go to and really see what was coming from everyone in the year ahead. While we had our own 'E3 for cheap' with ECTS in Europe for a few years, going to Los Angeles every June for the big spectacle of E3 was the highlight of the year.

"In the years after the really sad misstep of the Barker Hangar version of E3 in '07 [where the show was held in an aircraft hangar rather than LACC], it never really found its 'mojo' back, in my opinion, and in the last few years before the COVID pause, it became less and less relevant as a must-attend show – both from a business perspective as well as from my 'inner geek' perspective."

Curve Games chairman Stuart Dinsey has also attended every E3, originally as a journalist and later as a publisher, and agrees that it "felt inevitable that E3 would finally bite the dust."

"In recent years E3 had become about meetings in hotels, not the convention centre," he tells "The market had changed. The channel – as we once called retail – disappeared, and digital took over. The ROI for exhibitors, always debatable, disappeared."

"It's been a fairly long and drawn out end for E3. It's sad yet good to finally conclude that chapter in our industry's history"

Morten Larssen, Raw Fury

He adds: "Content owners want to feel in control. Eyeballs and influencers have the real power. Direct consumer access has increased, albeit via a screen mostly. Traditional games media has weakened. Events like the Xbox Showcase have filled the gap when it comes to global announcements. E3 was always fun, but nothing stays the same for too long in this business."

Video Games Chronicle editor-in-chief Andy Robinson points to how the show had diminished in its final years, both in terms of scale but also in attendance from key companies.

"By the final E3 in 2019, the once booming West Hall only held one of the three console platform holders: Nintendo. Microsoft had moved to an external venue and Sony didn't exhibit at all. Big third-party publishers such as Activision and EA had also long since left. It was a sad sight for anyone who remembers the show from its heyday.

"You then had the awkward compromise of squeezing consumers into a venue clearly not equipped to handle them at scale, which reduced the quality of the event for everyone. The Los Angeles Convention Center had also been a big blocker for years. Nobody wants to pay millions for booths anymore, in a venue where you can't bring your own food, or fit even a fraction of Gamescom's attendees.

"I think for years E3 has been as much about 'what would it look like if we didn't do it?' to publishers, and the pandemic gave them the opportunity to reflect and reevaluate how they want to promote their games."

GameSpot's managing editor Tamoor Hussain notes that the loss of E3 isn't just about the impact it had on the industry, it's also about how it elevated the industry into the mainstream consciousness. It was the crucial moment where broader news channels paid attention to what was happening in video games.

Tobias Sjögren, Starbreeze

"E3 was an event that could not be ignored by the world at large, especially the press," he says. "“Importantly, it made them and their work accessible to various degrees. This is something that The Game Awards, which also garners mainstream attention, hasn't been able to do. As it stands, Summer Game Fest hasn't reached the scale where it registers as important to people beyond our own circles.

"Some people may baulk at the idea of needing mainstream attention, but the impact and benefit of it is undeniable. It raises the profile of our industry, attracts talent, excites fans, and shows us celebrating the medium we love to the world at large. I personally would love to see that again, somehow."

Eurogamer editor-in-chief Tom Phillips agrees, adding that - with the expected launch of Nintendo's new console next Christmas – 2024 would have been a vital year to have such an inescapable games showcase.

"Had the ESA managed to regain momentum quicker, things might have been different – but that ship had already sailed," he says. "I could have seen a smaller but still relevant E3 2024 show doing well, with the backing of a first-party such as Nintendo, an E3 stalwart looking to show off new hardware next year. Alas, 2025 was too far off, and the landscape has already changed beyond recognition from when the show last shut its doors in 2019."

The big question of 'why did E3 die?' has largely been answered by this point, even before the Entertainment Software Association officially confirmed the show's end – in fact, you can see some of the signs in our interview with the ESA over the cancellation of E3 2023.

The more crucial questions at this point is what happens next, and whether the industry still needs a moment like E3. But need and want, as Hussain puts it, are two very different things.

"Do we need an E3 stand-in? Probably not," he says. "There are enough events around the year now that some of what E3 offered can be found there. And we're also more connected online than ever – for better and for worse. Sure, it's a little harder to make new connections, but it's still possible, it just requires a little extra effort and diligence.

"E3 was an event that could not be ignored by the world at large, especially the press"

Tamoor Hussain, GameSpot

"Do we want it? Sure, but then I'd argue between Summer Game Fest and Gamescom, we're already in a good position."

Starbreeze CEO Tobias Sjögren has been attending E3 since 1998 and argues that the "need for people in the industry to meet and make business is still there," hoping that gap can be filled by the likes of GDC and Gamescom. However, he laments the impact on the US market.

"The US not having a big games focused event is a missed opportunity, especially considering that other regions have their own in Gamescom, Tokyo Game Show, and GStar," he says.

"From a game industry and business development perspective, I fear that too few physical events can have a negative impact on the culture and opportunities within the industry. So while I can understand a retailer showcase event doesn't have a purpose any longer I wish there to be a replacement of some sort."

Few games shows see booths as spectacular as those of E3

Dinsey adds: "For mental health and industry fraternity, a gathering is always good. It can build careers and companies. You can feel the business you are in. Gamescom does that well, as does Pocket Gamer Connect, Develop Conference and the PAX events. But events have to be affordable and genuinely valuable."

Katharine Castle, editor-in-chief of Rock Paper Shotgun, agrees that the industry needs a moment to "come together and show the world what it's about," if only because the last few years of multiple livestreamed press conferences and showcases being strung out over the summer months have proven to be "both exhausting and unexciting."

Katharine Castle, Rock Paper Shotgun

"There's no energy, there's no curation, and everything ends up becoming one big blur of nothing," she says. "A focused moment where all the big publishers and platform holders come out swinging is still a vital and important part of the fabric of this industry, and I hope that, even in E3's absence, that people still come together like this going forward.

"What it doesn't need is another show filtering and funnelling those announcements into its own marketing hype machine beforehand, and leaving the actual platform holders' conferences with little more than sloppy, repetitive seconds. E3 had its problems, but at least the ESA didn't materialise as a single man who'd rather be talking to muppets and celebrities on stage than the games they're supposedly here to promote and celebrate. "

The Geoff Keighley-fronted Summer Game Fest is perhaps the most likely replacement for E3, but opinions are currently mixed as to whether this still-young event can garner the same level of attention and meet the industry's needs.

Robinson attended this year's in-person Summer Game Fest, the event's second ever physical showing, and described it as "the type of E3 I'd expect in a post-pandemic year."

"A lot of the big publishers were already back showcasing their games in June, and holding events around Los Angeles or inside the SGF venue. Sure, it was on a much smaller scale compared to E3's heyday, but that made it more comfortable for those in attendance, and there are still practicalities to deal with like the fewer number of games ready to show, and who is actually making pre-release demos anymore."

"By the final E3 in 2019, the once booming West Hall only held one of the three console platform holders: Nintendo... It was a sad sight for anyone who remembers the show from its heyday"

Andy Robinson, VGC

Meanwhile, VG247 editor-in-chief Dom Peppiatt, who also attended, is less convinced: "I am reluctant to say that it can be a direct replacement for E3. There was something about all the big players coming together in a friendly, competitive environment that really made E3 feel like a holiday. Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Capcom, Square Enix, EA, and Devolver all coming together in one place did something that a handful of celebrity cameos can't.

"Before I was a professional in this industry, I was a fan; staying up into the little hours of the morning, gleefully rubbing my hands at the announcement of a new Atlus game or feeling my brain itch as the Agni's Philosophy tech demo blew our minds. I just don't think we're going to get any 'giant enemy crab' or 'Konami 2010' moments ever again."

Raw Fury's Larssen points to the array of other events the industry can attend to achieve similar goals, such as the PAX conventions (organised by parent ReedPop) for reaching US press and consumers. He also cites other events around the globe, including BitSummit in Japan and ChinaJoy for markets that are "growing faster than the US one," and GDC for connecting with developers.

"I do wish for GDC to relocate though, as I think we've outgrown the downtown San Francisco location several years ago," he adds.

Tamoor Hussain, GameSpot

"The games market is no longer a US-centric console/PC market, but an ever-expanding global phenomenon with a much more varied palette of games, platforms and types of gamers. For us, the very best show to replace E3 has been Gamescom for the last ten years – as it has been way better at facilitating the business side, and is being used more and more for major news and reveals, not only from EU based companies."

While the impact of E3's downfall on the industry has been much discussed at this point, it's worth perhaps also considering the impact on the games media.

When E3 first began, the press was a crucial channel for publishers and developers to reach their audience, but the rise of direct-to-consumer channels – accelerated by the pandemic – has diminished this role significantly. As ESA president Stanley Pierre-Louis noted this week, games companies have "new and exciting ways to reach people" and can do so "on a timetable that meets their business needs."

Castle says: "I think we as journalists also feel the sting more keenly than others, as our previous role as conveyors of that information has also become less important, if not also semi-redundant, in this new era of direct-to-consumer streams.

"After all, why risk having pesky criticism and analysis enter the equation when you can present the perfect, polished version of your [games] to audiences now without further question? The move towards 'all hype and no substance' seems inevitable, in some respects, but I feel like that's only going to be damaging to the industry in the long-run."

"E3 had its problems, but at least the ESA didn't materialise as a single man who'd rather be talking to muppets and celebrities on stage than the games they're supposedly here to promote and celebrate"

Katharine Castle, Rock Paper Shotgun

Peppiatt adds: "E3 offered a great place for journalists and content creators to quiz publishers and developers on behalf of the audience. Hands-on demos, roundtables, interviews – this sort of face-to-face setup let us media types interrogate the outlandish PR statements made on-stage, clarify the odd language of press releases, extract more information from the well-worded, well-trained mouthpieces that get plonked on stage to sell us stuff.

"If the future is all online showcases and four-hour-long trailer compilations, a vital link in the chain is going to be rubbed out, and I think that's a net loss for everyone."

Phillips acknowledges that, while reaching press and retail six months ahead of the lucrative holiday period will always benefit games companies, this no longer necessarily requires a physical trade show – especially in the age of shadow drops, public betas, and live service games.

"It's harder to justify the enormous money E3 and Summer Game Fest ask, but speaking as a journalist, said shows are one of the few times it's possible to put questions to those at the very top of video game companies and gauge mood or hear stories from a wide range of developers in one location," he says.

For all its flaws and shortcomings over the years (more on that in tomorrow's This Week In Business), E3 still provided plenty of fond memories for the industry and those who work in or cover it (again, check out tomorrow's This Week In Business).

Morten Larssen, Raw Fury

"We have attended every E3 there has ever been, even the one in Santa Monica, and they have never disappointed – even Santa Monica," laughs Rebellion co-founder Chris Kingsley. "E3 has always been one of the best places to meet colleagues and clients from all over the world, a key beat in the rhythm of our business year. We've very much enjoyed the LA hospitality over the years."

TinyBuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik adds: "I grew up staying up late watching E3 press conferences and dreaming about participating. The memories are great. They will always be with us."

Larssen, meanwhile, already has the show in mind for his imminent trip to Los Angeles.

"I will hope to stop by the Figueroa Hotel later this year to pour one out for the old E3 – may it rest in peace!"

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James Batchelor avatar
James Batchelor: James is Editor-in-Chief at, and has been a B2B journalist since 2006. He is author of The Best Non-Violent Video Games
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