E3 is dead. Long live E3.
For two decades, E3 was the show to watch for gaming announcements. That all started to change in the mid-2010s, when publishers realized they could hold their own, more targeted and less expensive shows using the power of this newfangled thing called the internet. The events of 2020 dealt E3 a seemingly fatal blow by making crowds not just unpleasant, but dangerous. And yet, E3 is returning in 2023, this time under the stewardship of a new organization: ReedPop.
If you’ve followed the gaming industry at all in the past few years, you’ve probably heard of ReedPop. Echoing the recent consolidation of game developers, the group acquired Gamer Network in 2018, which includes websites like Eurogamer and the now-defunct USGamer. More importantly for E3 2023, it also runs conventions like PAX, New York Comic Con, and Star Wars Celebration.
Here’s what ReedPop Global VP of Gaming Kyle Marsden-Kish has to say about the resurrected E3:
“E3 2023 will be recognizably epic—a return to form that honors what’s always worked—while reshaping what didn’t and setting a new benchmark for video game expos in 2023 and beyond.”
Aside from whatever that means, details are scarce on what E3 will look like under ReedPop. There’s no mention of what worked and what didn’t about E3, in ReedPop’s eyes, but it sounds like the event will continue its recent path toward becoming a fan convention as much as an industry expo.
In fact, that transition is likely to pick up speed with ReedPop in charge. ReedPop-run conventions like PAX and Comic Con are far more fan-focused than even latter-day E3. And as much as ReedPop says it wants to honor what makes E3 special, it’s not likely to stray too far from the formula that’s working for it.
The magic of E3 was that it was unique. For one week, all eyes were on the flood of info spilling out from the LA Convention Center. Future blockbusters, surprise release dates, and even consoles were revealed at E3, because you could be sure absolutely no one who might be interested would miss them. That’s simply not the case anymore. After Nintendo jumped ship to focus on its own Direct showcases, everyone from EA to Sony started pouring more resources into shows that featured their games and only their games. The rise of Summer Game Fest and the other countless shows now filling E3’s absence only sealed the deal, offering the kind of reveals you used to only expect from E3, each with their own distinct personality.
ReedPop seems to be aware that dusting off the old E3 playbook just isn’t going to work anymore. It’s no longer the only place to get huge reveals, and probably not the best format for them. E3 can no long succeed on name alone, and in fact the brand itself may be more a liability than a draw at this point. Under the watch of the Entertainment Software Association (which is still involved in nü-E3), the show had become a confused mix of experiences, not fully serving either fans or members of the industry. Then there was the infamous data breach that doxxed hundreds of journalists (and which ReedPop obliquely references, pointing to “secure media registration” in its press release).
So if E3 can’t just be E3 anymore, what can it be? Most likely, ReedPop will follow its own example. PAX and New York Comic Con have certainly changed over the years, but haven’t suffered the same kind of identity crisis as E3. ReedPop generally has a handle on its hybrid convention model, serving both industry professionals and fans. E3 still has the advantage of a physical show floor, which means it can showcase live demos and in-person experiences competitors like Summer Game Fest can’t.
It’s likely to start resembling PAX and Comic Con in other ways, too. Panels are staples of both of those shows, and could provide another justification for why physical events like E3 still have value in the stream-dominated landscape. Likewise, tournaments and other opportunities to play games live with other people could be a welcome addition at a time when couch co-op is a basically a lost artform. Finding a way to merge its unique in-person events with livestreams for those who can’t attend won’t be easy, but it’s likely the only future for E3 that doesn’t make it a punchline.
So there are plenty of ways this incarnation of E3 could justify its existence, but just as many challenges, some of which are far more serious than just game announcement fatigue. Just this year, a longtime PAX volunteer passed away after falling ill at PAX East. ReedPop responded by changing absolutely nothing about its safety protocols for shows coming up later this year. Clearly, ReedPop knows how to run a successful convention when there’s not a plague on, but following the “just ignore it” policy much of the world has adopted isn’t going to cut it anymore.
A year out, it’s far too early to say whether E3 2023 will kick off a new era for the convention or just prolong its descent. If you want a glimpse at what E3 will be if it survives the next few years, you’re better off looking at Comic-Con and PAX than at the E3 of yore.