The Entertainment Software Association made a big hullabaloo of announcing the return of E3 back in September, with PAX organizer ReedPop taking over the show. E3 2023 is set to be the first in-person version of the event since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. A planned split between business days and public days seemed like a real "have your cake and eat it too" situation, aiming to please the press and developers while still making money off public ticket sales.
But that plan seemingly was not enough to lure back the biggest companies in gaming: according to a report from IGN, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are all skipping this year's show.
The news is a major blow for E3's 2023 comeback. But it's also not a shock: Sony didn't have a booth at E3 in 2019, and E3's attempts to hold digital shows in 2021 (result: messy) and 2022 (canceled) have made it clear that publishers can get the word out about their new games without E3's help—and without paying millions of dollars for floor space in the Los Angeles Convention Center.
This year's E3 will face increased competition from Geoff Keighley's Summer Game Fest, which has already planted a flag in the month, promising a return in June with another livestream. Summer Game Fest is also likely to include another demo event for press after a positive turnout for 2022's "Play Days" event PC Gamer attended.
While it's still possible major publishers like Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, and Take-Two will have a presence at this year's E3, some will doubtlessly follow the platform holders' lead here. Others, like EA, already opted to host their own events nearby years ago. It's increasingly hard to see E3 itself as a worthy expense for game companies that can rent their own event spaces for a fraction of the price, or for attendees paying for pricey tickets. In 2019, a three-day ticket to E3 cost $249.
In an interview with IGN, Phil Spencer expressed support for the ESA and said Xbox was still planning a showcase "at a time where hopefully it's convenient for press and even consumers that are going to the E3 event." Microsoft didn't confirm that it's skipping this year's show floor—according to a report from VGC, Microsoft's talks with the ESA are ongoing and it "could yet have a business and media presence similar to last year’s Gamescom, if not a traditional booth." VGC corroborated the news that Sony and Nintendo were skipping the event.
In a statement to IGN, ReedPop said that it has "received a tremendous amount of interest and verbal commitments from many of the biggest companies in the industry, and when we are ready to announce the exhibitors we are confident it will be a lineup that will make the trip to Los Angeles well worth it for the industry and consumers alike." But it sure sounds like ReedPop's going to have a whole lot of empty convention center space to fill before June.