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E3 2022 May be Online-Only for Second Straight Year

We’re not even a week into 2022 and the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has already started turning event plans for the year on their head.

Omicron-driven infections bent but didn’t break the major annual technology convention, CES 2022, was impacted by the spike in omicron-driven infections. Several major companies withdrew as exhibitors and health and safety measures were strengthened but the show still proceeded this week as a hybrid event, held in Las Vegas and online. Other show organizers have had to pick their own approach to handling the latest COVID-19-related roadblock, while others still may change their approach over the next few months.

The Electronic Software Association (ESA) trade group who organizes the E3 show has made their judgment call: For the the second consecutive year, E3 could potentially be held as an online-only event. In 2020, that year’s E3 show was canceled altogether. This year, an in-person version of E3, usually held in June, is off the table.

“Due to the ongoing health risks surrounding COVID-19 and its potential impact on the safety of exhibitors and attendees, E3 will not be held in person in 2022,” the ESA stated in a communication to IGN. “We remain incredibly excited about the future of E3 and look forward to announcing more details soon.” In a follow-up, according to IGN, the ESA was unsure whether they’d host a digital event in replacement of a physical one. More details about the future of E3 in 2022 and beyond may be announced in the coming months.

E3 2021 was presented free and featured publishers and developers showcasing upcoming game titles online across several different platforms. Other games and publisher-centered events, such as the Summer Game Fest online showcase, which was developed during E3’s absence in 2020, will return in the summer of 2022.

Crowds like these from E3 2019 look and feel like they’re from a different time and place. E3 2019 had brought in 66,100 attendees. (Image: E4G)

This isn’t the first, second, or even third year that the E3 show has been repositioned or reinvented. In 2007, in reaction to some complaints that E3 had gotten too large, E3 was scaled back and spread out across several small venues — before returning to Los Angeles in 2008 while remaining a smaller event. In 2017, the E3 show was pushed in the other direction toward growth by adding passes for the public to have access to the show floor. COVID-19 is only the latest challenge to the ESA and the E3 show, but it is certainly one of the longest-lasting challenges.

As we become more acclimated to getting the latest information about games and other technologies more often via livestream, how might the E3 show, whether online, offline, or as a hybrid, need to be reinvented this year (and going forward) to remain influential in promoting games?

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