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This year's online E3 will be 'free for all,' with no paywalls

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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.

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"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.

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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.

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.