Following a report which said that the Entertainment Software Association has been considering locking elements of this year's online E3 event behind a paywall, the organization has declared that the show "will be a free event for all attendees."
The ESA announced in February that this year's E3 will be entirely digital because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The online event will feature "multiple keynote sessions, an awards show, a preview night, and separate streams from individual publishers, influencers and others," with media previews and streamable demos available during the week leading up to it, similar to the pre-show press events held by major publishers during conventional E3 shows.
A report published today by VGC said that multiple sources told it that the ESA was looking at charging for access to some parts of the event. The site said that a "major games company" it spoke to was critical of the idea, and that a firm decision had not yet been made. Then, very shortly after the report went live, the ESA tweeted that the online show will be free for everyone.
E3’s 2021 digital show is a free event for all attendees. We’re excited to fill you in on all the real news for the event very soon. https://t.co/HzTzaQEosxApril 1, 2021
"We can confirm that E3 2021 will be 100 percent free for attendees and that there will be no elements at E3 2021 that will be behind a paywall," an ESA rep confirmed in a follow-up statement.
It's good news for gamers eager to see the show, and frankly I don't see how it could have gone any other way. In the early days of E3, which first ran in 1995, it was an industry-exclusive event, but in more recent years—and particularly with the advent of livestreaming—it's become much more open to the public. But the timing of the ESA's tweet and suggestion that the paywall story was not "real news" did not sit well with VGC's Andy Robinson, the author of the original report, who reiterated the validity of his sources on Twitter.
Here's some "real news".VGC's @E3 story came from actual documentation and verified sources with knowledge of its plans. We don't post nonsense and I wish The ESA had provided us with this statement ahead of publishing.Regardless, it's a small detail in an extensive report. pic.twitter.com/hhe2v8w4zAApril 1, 2021
Whether or not the ESA was considering a paywall prior to today, we can be pretty certain that it'll stick to today's public statement: No part of E3 will be paywalled.
The ESA has previously announced that E3 2021 will run from June 15-17, but given the fluid state of, well, everything, it's not currently clear whether those dates still hold. One thing that is certain is that the PC Gaming Show will be returning in June—stay tuned for more information on that in the coming weeks.