The pandemic era has been a rough time for video games. Hardware shortages are impacting the next-generation consoles heavily, making it difficult to find PS5 and Xbox Series in some regions. The demand is high as lockdowns come and go, but between the parts shortage and the work of scalpers, the supply hasn't been there. On the development side, many studios have been forced to work from home and deal with internal and external delays. This has pushed back a lot of release dates and may have affected some larger titles' ability to polish out bugs before launch.

However, some of the most obvious hits to the average consumer have been physical gaming events. Right from the beginning of North America's first lockdown, events were not able to support as many people as normal, if they were even able to run at all. The flow of game news quickly became disrupted, with even digital events not being aired due to development schedules needing to change. Nintendo fans likely remember the lack of Nintendo Directs during 2020, but for the rest of the industry, the total cancellation of E3 2020 stands out even more. E3 has been at the heart of video game news and hype for the past twenty-seven years, and its absence was keenly felt. Now, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has decided that there will be no E3 2022 after a return in 2021, which means E3 may need a replacement.

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Video Games Need a Consolidated Showcase

To explain why E3 is so important for the gaming industry, it is necessary to cover what equivalent shows were like without it. One needs to look no farther than the summer of 2020 to see why a focused and compact show is vital for consuming a large amount of video game news. Because E3 2020 had to be shut down, it was replaced by many digital showcases that aired throughout the summer. Sony and Microsoft had a handful, but there were also many others, often lacking counterparts in normal E3 proceedings. Geoff Keighley and IGN collected shows under the banners of Summer Game Fest and the Summer of Gaming respectively and doled them out over three months.

However, this proved to be too much game news spread out across too much time. Traditionally, the "E3 season" only lasts for about a week, stretching to two weeks if accounting for the various announcements around E3's main conferences. In that time, three-to-twenty shows may take place, often wrapping up in less than a week and being followed by show floor proceedings. 2020's summer-length events more than doubled the number of presentations that a modern E3 would include, and many weren't grabbing gamers' attention. E3 has had some trouble with bloat over the past few years, with certain shows like the PC Gaming Show and the Future Games Show proving to be less enjoyable for consumers compared to those hosted by major publishers. However, even E3's most mediocre offerings did not discourage potential viewers by simply being part of the event.

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It's become clear that a compact show is necessary to funnel the industry’s attention into one place and assist fans in absorbing the massive amount of information gaming events produce. A tight schedule can be constructed for showrunners, developers, and viewers alike, with gamers able to construct their viewing schedule based on what shows they want to watch. The tightness of a typical E3 makes it feel like a celebratory event for the gaming industry, one that brings everyone together in discussing the news. Without it, or an event like it, a full season of news events can blend together and fail to make an impression. When most of the intended audience doesn't even realize that a news event is going on, then it has failed its purpose.

How The Game Industry Can Maintain The E3 Format

It is for the best that the video game industry keeps an all-encompassing showcase like E3. Unfortunately, the ESA has officially canceled E3 2022, with plans to make a major return in 2023. Geoff Keighley's Summer Game Fest has already been confirmed to return this year, and its attempt at replacing E3 likely won't be a repeat of its 2020 premiere. In 2021, Geoff and his collaborators smartly positioned the majority of the Fest around E3 2021’s shows. The event still technically lasted for the whole summer, but there was a clear front-loaded portion that viewers could latch onto.

If the usual major shows can be corralled into the same rough time frame as a regular E3 and be preceded by a company-neutral opening night, then it will cleanly recreate a modern E3. The only things missing will be physical interviews and demos, which could creep back in at a later date. Whatever smaller shows lie between then and Gamescom can be kept track of at fans' discretion.

A replacement show doesn’t need to come from a third-party organizer, assuming game industry heads can play nice with each other. Some manner of "platform holder conference" would be just what the industry needs, collecting showcases from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo in one place. Major publishers with their own E3 shows such as Ubisoft and Square Enix could also join in on the festivities, resulting in an event made up of smaller shows that agree to air close to one another. The three platform manufacturers have come together in the past, such as agreeing to share safety standards, so a show like this is conceivable.

As long as something with E3's impact can be maintained, it doesn't matter if a show named E3 is still running. The separation of different shows run by different companies for different purposes has been occurring for several years now, and allowing this collection of showcases to become self-regulating feels like the next step. Companies and events can move in and out of this gaming showcase period as needed, but that core show period will always be there to some extent. Even if Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo were to decide that another time would be better for them that year, there could still be a dedicated two-week period for smaller events to congregate.

According to Keighley’s April 1st statements on the 2022 Summer Game Fest, it seems like that is precisely what the event intends to be. Despite all of its problems, the yearly E3 trade show has done a lot of good for the gaming industry, and hopefully, Summer Game Fest or some other event will be able to keep its legacy going.

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