E3 2023 organizer says the big game companies were 'enthusiastic' at first, but then 'the mood changed'

Microsoft's Phil Spencer at E3 2018.
Microsoft's Phil Spencer at E3 2018. (Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

GamesIndustry.biz, whose parent company ReedPop was organizing E3 2023 before its cancellation this week, has published an editorial which details some of what happened. The short if it, according to the site's head of games B2B, Christopher Dring, is that "the industry just didn't want this E3."

According to Dring, all but one major game company had been enthusiastic about participating in E3 2023 at the start.

"Companies were talking about taking up huge spaces," Dring wrote. "The E3 team was looking at how we could expand into the car park and use the extra areas that hadn't been used for years." 

ReedPop said as recently as February that the event was "full steam ahead." But even with E3 2023 just a few months away, contracts hadn't been signed, and the "mood changed," wrote Dring.

According to him, some of the reasons companies like Ubisoft, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo gave for pulling out were:

  • "Our games aren't ready"
  • "We don't have code"
  • "We can't be seen to be extravagant in this economy"
  • "The timing isn't quite right"

All are classic, evergreen excuses, but the one about extravagance has a topical bent—I could see Microsoft fretting over the optics of going all out at E3 the same year it laid off 10,000 employees

There will still be big gaming events this June. Geoff Keighley's Summer Game Fest is one, and you can expect major publishers to put on their own announcement livestreams. There'll be Ubisoft and Xbox events, and our 2023 PC Gaming Show will happen as planned, with the day and time still to be announced, as will the multiplatform Future Games Show from our publisher.

Dring said that ReedPop, which also organizes events such as PAX and New York Comic Con, "moved a bit slower than anyone would have liked" and might've needed a different communication strategy, but that the problem wasn't just that E3 failed to change, as Keighley suggested on Twitter immediately following the cancellation news.

"The pitch, I felt anyway, was good," wrote Dring. "It had the business and consumer components separate (or at least, as separate as was possible in that venue), it was more affordable, they were going to sort the wi-fi, improve the food, add a stronger digital component… it was everything everyone said they wanted. But in the end, it turns out, they didn't want that either."

Hard to argue with that last statement: E3 2023 would still be happening if the industry's biggest companies had stayed committed. Although ReedPop was organizing E3 this year, the event is still owned by the Entertainment Software Association, whose member companies are some of the very same that ditched the show. And this isn't the first time E3 has dealt with exits: adjacent-to-but-not-actually-E3 shows were a thing well before this year.

"In hindsight, perhaps E3 should have been more radically different," Dring wrote. "A heavier focus on digital, with the physical show focused squarely on the business side, without the reliance on booths to entice people in. But some might argue that's almost a different event entirely."

Dring says he's disappointed that E3 won't happen this year, a view shared by our own Rich Stanton, who praised the virtues of E3 as a messy, in-person business, press, and marketing event today.

Rich thinks there's no coming back from this, and at a glance, a lot of people seem to share the view that E3 is dead for good. Dring isn't sure if we'll ever see the three 'e's rise again, reiterating that it's the industry's show, and the industry has to want it back if it's going to happen—maybe in a year that there's console hardware to announce.

E3 did come back from its dreadful, scaled-back 2007 and 2008 events, so anything's possible. In the meantime, we'll see you in June for the 2023 Videogame Announcements Week.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.