E3 Is Cancelled. Good, Here’s What the ESA Can Do to Bring It Back to Prosperity

For the first time since 1996, there will not be an Electronic Entertainment Expo to call home. The Entertainment Software Association (or the ESA, for short), confirmed the news on Wednesday morning, citing “growing concerns over (the) COVID-19 virus,” or Coronavirus as it’s more commonly known. As a result, it’s now “exploring options with our members to coordinate an online experience to showcase industry announcements and news in June 2020.”

Now, here’s the thing. The coronavirus is definitely a reason why the show eventually went the way of the dodo this year. But leading up to that, many were questioning what it should’ve been anyway. With Sony pulling out for a second consecutive year and many companies wondering if it was worth it, the ESA previously noted that it would come back with an all-new take on what people expected from the show. This followed a previous data leak of over 2,000 journalists and other attendees, which the company still has yet to apologize for.

This newly focused show would’ve originally included “surprise guests, stage experiences, access to insiders, and experimental zones,” going against the mantra of what the show was known for in the first place. That means focus on games, game developers, and game hype. Instead, it sounded like E3 was headed in a disastrously worse direction, leading many to wonder if the show was still needed. Alas, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Despite E3’s cancellation, this gives a chance to the ESA to refocus and bring the show back to basics. We’ve recommended a few things that it can do to win over the community again, because, boy, does it need to.

First off, the apology. It noted that it was aware of the data leak that took place last year, but not once did it say it was sorry for the error. Honestly, this goes a long way. By acknowledging a mistake and saying, “We’re ready to win back your trust” instead of hiring some outside security agency to protect its assets, it repairs the bridge that it burned down once the data leak took place.

The second thing? Get back Geoff Keighley. Say what you will, but Keighley is a prominent figure in the E3 scene. When he announced he wouldn’t return to the show last month because it wasn’t the same event he remembered, that was a colossal blow. Now that the show will take an online stance this year, it’s a good opportunity to mend that relationship and have him host an E3 online special, done his way. As he’s proven with the Video Game Awards and the Gamescom presentation in the past, doing things his way totally works.

Microsoft will still have something in store for gamers. But will it be like this?

And then? Forget the hoopla. We understand that E3 is trying to do things in the way of the Penny Arcade Expo. But let’s be fair – it’s not PAX. It’s an industry show. That’s what many people recognize it for, that’s what it needs to be. Part of these Coronavirus fears come from the fact that the show is more packed than it needs to be. We know that the ESA wants to make money from the public, but this is the wrong way to do it.

A separate event. Some activities surrounding the event, like what Microsoft has done with its pavilion. Doing stuff that will have people feeling the E3 mantra without actually being at E3 itself. There are smarter ways to do this. And now that the show is on the shelf for the next year, the ESA can knuckle down and take it back to basics. It needs to if it’s going to win over the trust of attendees again.

And do away with the business plan of “experimental zones.” Really? Is this a children’s museum? No, it’s E3. That means having games that fill up space and not necessarily energy drink dance parties like what took over the floor last year. This is a matter of focusing on games and giving everyone a chance to show off what they’ve got coming in the next year.

That means lowering rates. We know the Convention Center in L.A. isn’t a cheap space to host an event, but it worked so well in the past. So, make use of every corner of its building. By that, we mean this: bring back Kentia Hall and the weird, wonderful developers that can’t afford the typical floor space or the private meeting rooms. Bring back the back halls where smaller companies can provide a good hosting spot. Hell, bring back Naughty America and get people talking again. (Once more, make this an industry event and not something where the kids can go in and accidentally brush into, say, Dr. Disrespect.)

Sigh. We’ll definitely miss this mantra. For now.

This is your chance, ESA. Make June’s showcase something special with Geoff Keighley, Melonie Mac and all the talent you can muster to get people excited for games. Then reshuffle your deck and make the show what it should have been for the last few years, complete with all the games you can carry and the open opportunities for everyone – smaller developers included – to thoroughly enjoy. Make E3 E3 again, if that makes sense.

Meanwhile, we’ll see you in the chat rooms for the virtual presentation in June. Hopefully, it won’t be overloaded with “experimental zones.”

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