For the past three years, there's been an absence in the video game industry. The COVID-19 pandemic took with it many in-person conventions and E3, the largest annual gaming convention of the year, was one such example. E3 organizer Entertainment Software Association attempted a shift to a digital-only event with dubious results, but the intent has always been a return to an in-person convention. That intent has now become a plan, with the ESA announcing an in-person E3 will be returning in 2023.

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The ESA characterizes E3's return in 2023 as a "week of titanic AAA reveals, earth-shaking premieres, and exclusive access to future video games." Yet E3 will also be bringing back a controversial aspect of the convention from before the pandemic. E3 2023 will be open not only to publishers, developers, journalists, content creators, and other industry workers, but also to consumers. The exact structure of E3 2023, which will balance in-person components and digital showcases, will be confirmed at a later date.

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E3 2023 will also be organized by a different team, with the ESA announcing that it's partnering with ReedPop for next year's event. ReedPop is best known for running events including PAX and the Star Wars Celebration, as well as other major hobby conventions. ReedPop has promised to deliver a "world-class event" with E3 2023, seeing the event as a "tremendous honor and privilege."

There are certain to be questions about E3 through the next year, however, such as where E3 fits in the current landscape of video game conventions, particularly with the introduction of the Summer Game Fest and many other digital gaming events that now take place in June. There are also questions regarding whether E3 itself works as a standalone event, as a conversation started even before the pandemic regarding whether the convention was losing its focus and purpose.

As valuable as the discussion over E3 has been over the past several years, few would argue that there's an absence with regard to a central time and event. Independent presentations like the Microsoft and Bethesda Games Showcase are certainly exciting on their own, but having grouped presentations over a several-day period elevated the experience in a way that otherwise doesn't exist in the gaming industry. That doesn't mean E3 has to be the event to deliver that experience, but it's perhaps the only one trying at the moment.

Just because E3 is returning in 2023 doesn't mean that every publisher will be participating in the event again. Electronic Arts and PlayStation are both examples of publishers who parted ways with E3 in past years, among others. E3 may even lose more partners for 2023 as publishers continue to focus on their own digital events. Regardless, it's going to be interesting to see what happens with E3 2023 in the year to come.

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