The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has officially announced that E3, the iconic annual video game trade show, has been permanently cancelled after 28 years. The event has struggled in recent years and failed to capture the magic of its glory days, ultimately leading to the ESA pulling the plug this week.
Humble Beginnings to Industry Titan
E3 began in 1995 as a small gathering of game companies and press as the video game industry grew rapidly.
| Year | Attendance |
| 1995 | ~5,000 |
It quickly expanded over the next decade into a spectacle drawing over 70,000 attendees and dominated by headline-stealing press conferences from major publishers like Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and others.
E3 became a cultural phenomenon beyond just the industry, with gamers around the world eagerly awaiting the latest announcements and surprises each year. It was the undisputed focal point of the entire gaming world.
| Year | Attendance |
| 2006 | ~70,000 |
Recent Troubles and Decline
However, in recent years E3 began to lose relevance and ran into organizational troubles. Several major companies like Activision Blizzard, EA, and Sony dropped out of officially exhibiting at E3, instead favoring standalone digital events. Attendance and excitement began to decline.
The COVID-19 pandemic then dealt a crushing blow, forcing the cancellation of the 2020 event altogether. An attempt at a digital E3 2021 fizzled with lackluster showings. And just days before the 2022 show, the ESA announced that year’s event was also cancelled.
E3 was a shell of its former self and increasingly seemed unnecessary and outdated in a digital events landscape.
The Final Curtain Call
After the latest cancellation, rumors swirled that E3’s days might finally be numbered. Those rumors have now been confirmed, as the ESA issued the following statement:
“With the recent cancellation of E3 2023, we have decided to bring the Electronic Entertainment Expo to an end. After 28 years, the world’s most iconic gaming trade show has run its course. We look forward to continuing our work advocating for the industry with our members around the world.”
Industry icons and fans immediately took to social media to mourn the end of the gaming institution. Hideo Kojima tweeted:
“E3 has come to an end. I will always think fondly of the show that gave me so many opportunities and let me meet so many people over the years.”
What’s Next for the Industry?
E3 leaves behind a significant void as the gaming industry’s most visible and attention-grabbing annual event. Other competing trade shows have popped up over the years like Gamescom, PAX, and Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest. However, none have managed to capture that same magical energy that E3 radiated in its prime.
It remains to be seen if any spiritual successor may emerge, or if publishers will simply double down on their own standalone digital events and announcements. Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation will likely retain their strong followings regardless.
But the shuttering of E3 still represents the end of an era – three decades of wild announcements, surprises, victories, defeats, and memories unlike anything else for multiple generations of gamers. Its glory days are now firmly in the past, resigned to nostalgia.
For those lucky enough to have experienced E3 firsthand back in the day, it was a special one-of-a-kind event. The excitement of rushing from appointment to appointment or trying to catch a glimpse of that legendary Miyamoto or Kojima; the deafening cheers of crowds reacting to iconic moments like the UC2 demo, Twilight Princess reveal, or “one more thing” shockers (remember “Ridge Racer!”?); the parties and networking and palpable buzz in the air…that feeling can never be replicated.
Major industry events will certainly continue, and exciting game announcements lie ahead. But nothing will ever take the place of E3 for those who lived through it. Goodnight sweet prince – thanks for the memories.
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