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E3 2021 may be digital as ESA says it’s ‘transforming’ the gaming showcase

First E3 since 2019

Illustration by Alex Castro

The Entertainment Software Association has announced that E3 2021 is happening this year, and it could be going digital, according to Video Games Chronicle. The event will be held from June 15th through June 17th.

“We can confirm that we are transforming the E3 experience for 2021,” an ESA spokesperson told The Verge. “And will soon share exact details on how we’re bringing the global video game community together.”

According to Video Games Chronicle, the ESA has outlined its plans for E3 2021, with intentions to hold multiple two-hour keynote sessions from games partners, an awards show, a preview night on June 14th, plus some small streams from various game publishers, influencers, and media partners.

Video Games Chronicle also notes that the ESA’s outline proposes that the broadcast event would be supplemented by media previews the week before, and game demos slated to appear at the event would be released on consumer platforms. The ESA would also allow partner companies to remotely stream playable game demos to the media across “thousands” of scheduled meetings.

While the entire plan sounds ambitious, it still requires approval from ESA’s membership, which is made up of some of the industry's biggest companies, which also hold significant influence over the structure of the event. Traditionally, E3 has been one of the biggest weeks in the gaming industry, with the event showcasing some of the year's largest announcements. However, in recent years, the ESA has faced pressure with redefining E3 as major publishers, such as Sony, have opted to skip the event entirely in favor of hosting its own events around the week E3 is normally held. Following E3’s cancellation, many digital events were held to fill the void, most notably Summer Games Fest hosted by industry veteran Geoff Keighley.

This is the first time the ESA is holding E3 after the organization canceled E3 2020 due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. But E3 is not the only event that plans to go digital this year due to the pandemic; Activision Blizzard plans to host an online-only BlizzCon from February 19th through February 20th.