Farewell to E3: The End of an Era in Electronic Expos

E3’s decades-long history has been peppered with ups and downs. The annual Los Angeles-based gaming expo saw a decade of steady growth after it was founded in the mid-90s. The mid-00s, on the other hand, were an altogether different story, as the event struggled, downsized and moved out of the LA Convention Center. Opening the industry-only event to the public breathed new life into the event the following decade, however, until 2020 saw E3 – and the rest of the world – suddenly ground to a halt. Since then, the show has, understandably, struggled. The in-person event was canceled courtesy of Covid, and a virtual version failed to materialize by that summer. Show organizer, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), did manage an online event in 2021, only to once again cancel things in full the following year. After failing to garner enough interest, there was no E3 2023, nor would the event return in 2024. Given its recent history, there was little surprise this morning, when the ESA announced that E3 is now gone for good. Such decisions are never easy to make, and big organizations/events take a while to wind down. The group no doubt wanted to exhaust all feasible options before officially throwing in the towel for good.

“After more than two decades of E3, each one bigger than the last,” the organization wrote in a brief post this morning, “the time has come to say goodbye. Thanks for the memories.”

“Each one bigger than the last,” is a bit misleading, per the above recounting of the show’s history, but the place it once held in the gaming world is far clearer. At its peak, E3 represented the best of gaming. It was exciting, innovative, full of life. Huge titles and next-gen consoles were unveiled at the event, the booths were world class and gamers proved they could throw one hell of a party.

Even before the pandemic, however, the show’s success felt tenuous. Much of the buzz was dependent on the big three (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo), who showed a waning interest in the expo as the consumer tech market at large shifted to single-company press conferences to avoid getting lost in all the noise. The rise of virtual events has also taken some of the shine off of these sorts of shows.

I, for one, will miss E3. It was always a strange and wonderful week in downtown LA. But the days of gaming companies renting out the one-time Staples Center for one night in June may well be gone for good.

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