E3 2023 cancelled as publishers pull out 

Photo by: Brenden Cowan

Following several announcements from major publishers withdrawing from the event, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has announced that E3 2023 is cancelled.

In January, it was confirmed that the “Big Three” — Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft — would not be making an appearance at this year’s event. Since then, publisher Ubisoft has also backed out of the event, foregoing E3 for an independent presentation labelled Ubisoft Forward.

While it is unclear if other publishers would have made the same decision, these big publishers pulling out put the ESA in a tough spot, leading to the decision to cancel this year’s event.

In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis stated that he believes these absences are primarily a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also acknowledged that the industry as a whole is rethinking their approach to marketing.

“There were challenges that proved too large to surmount,” Pierre-Louis said. “First, several companies have reported that the timeline for game development has been altered since the start of the COVID pandemic. Second, economic headwinds have caused several companies to reassess how they invest in large marketing events. And third, companies are starting to experiment with how to find the right balance between in-person events and digital marketing opportunities.”

ReedPop, who was planning to work with ESA to host E3 2023, also mentioned that several other presentations were scheduled around the same time as E3, such as Summer Game Fest and Microsoft’s Developer Direct. This could indicate that E3 was cancelled due to the high volume of competing announcements.

That being said, ReedPop stated that they would likely work with ESA on future E3 events. Pierre-Louis also mentioned that the ESA is open to bringing E3 back in 2024, but is currently focusing on refining the E3 formula to better fit the changing game industry.

“We’re committed to providing an industry platform for marketing and convening but we want to make sure we find that right balance that meets the needs of the industry,” he said. “We’re certainly going to be listening and ensuring whatever we want to offer meets those needs and at that time, we will have more news to share.”

What was supposed to be a return to form for E3 following three years of lockdowns has ultimately fallen through, leaving the future of its events and the industry as a whole unclear. Perhaps the way forward is developers hosting their own individual events, as seems to be the case this summer. Or maybe a competitor like Summer Game Fest will take over E3’s spot as the go-to event for game news. Whatever happens, it seems this summer will provide some clues on which path the industry will take.

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