E3 may be returning for its first in-person event in four years this summer, but the gaming convention as we know it is dead. According to IGN, both Microsoft and Nintendo will join Sony in skipping the LA trade show this year, leaving E3 with nothing to show from any of the first-party studios, and no real reason to exist.
There’s a lot more going on in the world of gaming than just those companies of course, but without the ability to lock down the big three, E3 won’t be E3. There’s no reason for the developers, journalists, and fans to travel to Los Angeles from all around the world to gather for a big special event if the event isn’t all that special.
For millions of fans around the world, E3 was a week-long news-dump that had us glued to Twitch streams all day every day. While Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo were never the only press conferences, they were definitely the most important and memorable ones. E3 won’t draw much of an online audience without those big presentations. At that point, it will just be a local gaming convention like any other.
Without all the attention that the big three bring, this year’s E3 will be more like a PAX convention. Boston’s PAX East and Seattle’s PAX West are great opportunities to discover new indie games, demo some upcoming triple-A third-party games, and saturate yourself in a weekend of gaming culture. E3 can still be a fantastic local gaming event, but it won’t be E3.
This year’s E3 will also be the first co-run by Reedpop, the organization that puts on PAX, New York Comic Con, and the Star Wars Celebration every year. Given Reedpop’s expertise, it seems like it would make sense for E3 to lean into the fan event atmosphere of a PAX convention. Instead of big announcements and reveals, PAX shows are all about activities, community, and sampling new games.
Whereas E3 has traditionally held prestige, PAX has a more laid back, comfy vibe, where friends can reunite and have fun trying out some indies, learning a new board game, or watching a Smash Melee tournament. If E3 can’t be the big show anymore, maybe it should become PAX LA. A rebrand would better convey what E3 has become and would help alleviate the negative sentiment that the show isn’t as good as it used to be. If E3 is going to be so different, it ought to have a different name too.
Losing Sony and EA in 2019 was the beginning of the end for E3, and even if the ESA is able to schedule press conferences for Square Enix, Capcom, Gearbox, and Ubisoft (doubtful) as it did in 2021, it’s still going to look like a shadow of its former self. With Reedpop at the helm, it’s probably better at this point to leave the big reveals and press conferences to Summer Games Fest and instead focus on being the best video game fan expo in California. LA still has the infrastructure and population to support a big gaming convention, even if E3 will never again be what it once was.
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