E3 will return for 2021 as an online event

(Image credit: The ESA)
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The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of E3 (opens in new tab) last year, along with pretty much every other in-person videogame event, and while various digital showcases rushed in to fill that void, a hoped-for "online experience" to take the place of E3 itself never happened: The Entertainment Software Association committed to a 2021 event (opens in new tab), but 2020 ultimately fizzled and fell off the map.

The current state of the pandemic is not what anyone hoped it would be when we were still back in the first half of 2020, but the ESA has confirmed that plans for a 2021 event are moving ahead. A VGC (opens in new tab) report says pitch documents sent to game publishers lays out plans for three days of livestreamed coverage running June 15-17, the E3 2021 dates that were announced last year. 

The plan is to have multiple keynote sessions, an awards show, a preview night, and separate streams from individual publishers, influencers and others. The week leading up to the event would be similar to the pre-E3 press events traditionally held by major game publishers, with media previews and publicly-available demos, and there are also plans for remotely-streamed playable demos for media.

"We can confirm that we are transforming the E3 experience for 2021 and will soon share exact details on how we're bringing the global video game community together," the ESA said in an email. "We are having great conversations with publishers, developers and companies across the board, and we look forward to sharing details about their involvement soon."

The loss of in-person events last year led to numerous independent online shows from various publishers and platforms including Electronic Arts (opens in new tab), Ubisoft (opens in new tab), Sony (opens in new tab), and Microsoft (opens in new tab), which demonstrated their ability to get their messages out to significant audiences without having to work within the confines of E3. (We also ran The PC Gaming Show (opens in new tab) as usual.) A return to a live event would surely be welcome (under better circumstances), but it remains to be seen how eager publishers are to throw in for a digital-only E3, given how they've previously managed on their own.

The ESA said that it will share official details on its plans for E3 2021 soon.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.