The Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 as popularly known, once the pinnacle of the gaming industry’s conventions and media showcases, has met its demise. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), representing the gaming industry’s interests in the United States, has officially announced the end of E3 after over two decades of serving as a central platform for the video game industry.
Various factors contributed to E3’s downfall, including the emergence of new competitors, the withdrawal of key partners, shifting audience habits, and disruptions caused by the pandemic. Despite numerous attempts to revitalize the event that began in 1995, these challenges proved insurmountable.
E3’s closure comes as the gaming industry explores new opportunities, particularly through online video conferences that directly engage audiences without the financial burden associated with physical trade shows. The end of E3 has seemed inevitable for quite some time now with Sony’s decision to skip it in 2018 prompting a slew of similar measures by a number of vendors and video game companies. Arguably, Nintendo’s introduction of the “Direct” format in 2011 set the stage for this evolution.
E3 had attempted to boost attendance by allowing the general public to participate in recent years, but the pandemic accelerated its decline, as quarantine measures prompted game publishers to adopt online conferences. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted large in-person gatherings, publishers had started using live-streamed shows like Nintendo Direct, Sony’s State of Play, and the Xbox Games Showcase to reach their audiences.
Stanley Pierre-Louis, president and CEO of the ESA, acknowledged that companies now have various means to reach consumers and business partners directly, rendering E3’s traditional role less critical.
Before E3, video games were showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show, but the industry felt marginalized. E3 was initially created as a trade show for retailers to interact with game publishers and creators. Over time, it evolved into a massive multimedia event, with Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft unveiling groundbreaking consoles in electrifying displays.
E3 had not held an in-person event since 2019, with the pandemic rendering E3 2020 impossible. In 2021, it returned as a digital showcase, followed by plans for an event in 2022 and a hybrid online and in-person event in 2023, which were later canceled.