News of the cancellation began to trickle out Tuesday night from an Ars Technica report, citing “multiple sources” familiar with the ESA’s plans, who confirmed the cancellation to the publication. Minutes before that post went live, rumors were spreading on social media after Devolver Digital, a video game publisher, tweeted a warning that attendees should cancel their bookings.
A news release about E3′s cancellation was allegedly slated for Monday March 10, Ars Technica reports, but it had “slipped.”
The last update from the ESA was on March 4. At that time, a statement from the organizers said they were “monitoring and evaluating the situation daily” in consideration of coronavirus’s impact on the event. At that time, the ESA said it continued to “plan for a safe and successful E3 show.”
Despite PlayStation and The Game Awards’s famed host Geoff Keighley backing out of the event, along with Iam8bit resigning as the trade show’s creative director, E3 still had many big-name companies poised for the event. This included Nintendo, Xbox, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Capcom and more.
Coronavirus has been ravaging the game industry’s convention circuit, canceling events like the Game Developers Conference, delaying titles like Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds on Switch and affecting the esports world, with canceled matches in China by the Overwatch League and Riot Games’s League of Legends pro circuit.
The ESA wrote in its statement that its team will be reaching out to exhibitors and attendees with information regarding full refunds. It also wrote that it will explore options to coordinate an online experience to “showcase industry announcements and news in June 2020.”
E3′s cancellation could point to a shaky future for the show, which has fought to stay relevant as large video game companies turn to their own channels to digitally announce titles. In 2017, E3 opened its doors to the public for the first time; in previous years, the event had been exclusive to the media and games industry. This brought a 30 percent boost to its attendance, but in a world where most gamers consume both news and game content digitally, the imperative of an expensive, massive convention remains an open question.
A year without E3 may serve as a referendum on just how vital it is to the game industry.