E3 will be online-only this year due to Omicron variant spread

The ESA's reasoning conflicts with claims that E3's 2022 venue has been cancelled since November last year.

Gaming fans attend the 24th Electronic Expo, or E3 2018 in Los Angeles, California on June 13, 2018,...

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has announced today that E3 — the Los Angeles-based annual trade event for the gaming industry — will be online-only this year. Again. But some claim that E3 organizers never had plans to make the event happen IRL. In fact, the ESA may have quietly cancelled its Los Angeles Convention Center reservation back in the fall of 2021.

“Due to ongoing health risks surrounding COVID-19 and its potential impact on the safety of exhibitors and attendees, E3 will not be held in person in 2022,” the ESA told GamesBeat today. In 2020, E3 was completely cancelled. In 2021, it was online-only. In 2022, it’ll be another year online, as the ESA said it’s “excited about the possibilities of an online event.”

Skip scene — Regardless of what happens with COVID this year, E3 won’t be in-person. Even if the Omicron variant subsides by June, there are countless logistics and booking issues that must be planned far well in advance. Take, for example, the LA Convention Center (LACC), which has been home to numerous conventions such as Anime Expo, DragCon, E3 and more for years now. But even those staple events must be booked every year, and one business analyst and consultant claims that E3 has actually had its 2022 LACC reservation cancelled for months now.

Upon hearing the news that E3 IRL was cancelled due to Omicron, Mike Futter said, “This is a spin. I heard from sources in mid-November, before Omicron’s emergence at the end of that month that the ESA had abandoned their dates for the LACC.”

Bloomberg video games reporter Jason Schreier then chimed in, stating, “I 100% believe [Futter’s] reporting that the ESA gave up on E3 months ago... no way was this a knee-jerk reaction to Omicron. It’s E3 throwing in the towel.” He cited the lack of 2022 dates on E3’s website last year as evidence that the ESA had already given up on putting the event on in 2022.

Player two — Regardless of when E3’s LACC reservation was cancelled, the ESA is certainly being more cautious about COVID than the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) organizers, who held the “saddest CES on record” in-person this year despite Omicron concerns.

Many large gaming events appears to have gone by the wayside as COVID rages on into its second year. As organizers make tough decisions, they either run the risk of exacerbating the pandemic or lose out on the money-making excitement that only a live event can provide.