The video game extravaganza that is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, colloquially known as E3, will for the third summer in a row forgo an in-person event at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The trade group that represents major players in the video game industry cited the threat poised by the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
But the news, first reported on GamesBeat, also comes as the week-long gala, held in June, is at something of a crossroads.
"Due to the ongoing health risks surrounding COVID-19 and its potential impact on the safety of exhibitors and attendees, E3 will not be held in person in 2022," read a statement from an E3 spokesperson. "We remain incredibly excited about the future of E3 and look forward to announcing more details soon."
E3 typically brings more than 65,000 fans and industry professionals to the Los Angeles Convention Center and surrounding events every summer.
While the merits of E3 have become a subject of media debate in recent years — especially with some top game companies, including Sony Interactive Entertainment, opting to no longer participate in the event — the loss of the convention this year is a blow to Los Angeles. Sony this past week unveiled a look at its new virtual reality headset, the PSVR 2, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, held in person despite the Omicron surge.
While E3 has struggled in recent years to attract some of the industry's biggest players — Electronic Arts, for instance, has staged its own festival in Hollywood the same week as the Expo — the loss of E3 leaves a large gap in the summer convention calendar for Los Angeles. The trade group has in the past stated that it generates upward of $88 million in revenue for the city, and its opening day in 2019, the last time it was held, was marked with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Eric Garcetti.
During the pandemic, the online-focused Summer Game Fest, spearheaded by the Game Awards founder Geoff Keighley, has largely supplanted the E3 spotlight. E3's four-day, online-only gala in 2021 was low on video game razzmatazz and buzz was split among the two, trailer preview-focused events.
At the time, I wished for neither event to return in an online-only form, writing, "six hours of daily YouTube watching is far more exhausting than 18-hour days spent running around downtown Los Angeles at a convention. Combine a lack of face-to-face, in-person conversation, as well as the inability to play a game, and the message is one of bland promotion."
What form E3 would have taken in 2022 is unknown, however, as it joins this month's postponed Grammy Awards and the now-virtual-only Sundance Film Festival, along with many other Omicron-affected events.
The games industry may not be without in-person events in 2022, however. At the time of this writing, the Game Developers Conference was still slated to return to San Francisco for a week-long gathering at the end of March.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.