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What's E3 going to look like this year?


E3 2020 was different. For years, E3 has been the big gaming event of the year, the trade show that big publishers and hardware companies use to announce their new games and consoles in one exciting, exhausting week. 2020 was the first time in its history that E3 wasn't held in-person. After E3's organizers determined they couldn't put together a digital replacement in time, E3 2020 was canceled. But there was still something like E3 in spirit. Instead of a single game-packed week of announcements, an "alternative E3" of gaming livestreams stretched throughout the summer.

The ESA, the organization that runs E3, doesn't want to skip another year. But what will E3 2021 look like? While the United States is rapidly distributing Covid-19 vaccines, E3's typical June timing is still uncomfortably soon for a safe mass gathering. The ESA has pitched an online event to publishers, but will it end up going back to its usual few days of announcements? Or will a ton of independent streams once again run all summer long? 

When is E3 2021? 

The ESA previously announced that E3 2021 will run from June 15 - June 17. But right now, we don't know for sure if that's when E3 will be held, or if it will extend beyond that window like last year's months of events.

According to the ESA's pitch, linked above, E3 would include a media preview day and three days of livestreams, including keynotes and an awards show. But as more and more major publishers have pulled out of participating in E3 in recent years, it's hard to say how many will choose to go their own way this year, instead. Those dates are essentially still a placeholder.

In February, the E3 Twitter account wrote that "We’ve been hard at work on this year’s event and we can’t wait to provide the *full* picture of the E3 2021 experience. Keep an eye here for more big news from us soon!" So far, that's the only official word on what to expect.

The ESA is likely still working out how to schedule an online event alongside independent streams. We should expect something more concrete than 2020's free range summer, but here's what we have to go on right now. 

What "E3" 2021 events have been announced so far?

  • E3 is planning some kind of event for June 15 - June 17
  • The PC Gaming Show will return in June
  • The Future Games Show returns with a Spring Showcase on March 25th. It's the first of three planned Future Games Show events in 2021.
  • Xbox will hold a summer event that includes more Bethesda games.
  • Geoff Keighley won't be involved with E3, but is bringing back his Summer Game Fest for 2021
  • The Guerrilla Collective is coming back for its second year
  • GDC 2021 will run the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards from July 19 - July 23

What games should we expect at E3 2021?

It's a little early for developers to be teasting their flashy E3 reveals, but you can expect plenty of the big 2021 games to show up with new trailers. Here are some other games that could potentially make a splash:

When he's not 50 hours into a JRPG or an opaque ASCII roguelike, Wes is probably playing the hottest games of three years ago. He oversees features, seeking out personal stories from PC gaming's niche communities. 50% pizza by volume.