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E3 2020 canceled over coronavirus concerns

ESA cancels annual expo over ‘increased and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus’

Annual E3 Event In Los Angeles Showcases Video Game Industry’s Latest Products Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

This year’s E3 gaming convention, held annually since 1995, has been canceled. The announcement by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) on Wednesday comes amid concerns over the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

“After careful consultation with our member companies regarding the health and safety of everyone in our industry — our fans, our employees, our exhibitors and our longtime E3 partners,” the ESA said in an official statement, “we have made the difficult decision to cancel E3 2020, scheduled for June 9-11 in Los Angeles.

“Following increased and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus, we felt this was the best way to proceed during such an unprecedented global situation. We are very disappointed that we are unable to hold this event for our fans and supporters. But we know it’s the right decision based on the information we have today.”

The ESA said it is “exploring options with our members to coordinate an online experience to showcase industry announcements and news in June 2020.”

Ars Technica was the first to report on the cancellation.

The ESA has hosted the event since its inception, using it to bring together publishers and developers from the global games industry. Also on the guest list were thousands of members of the public who paid to attend. The ESA said it “will be reaching out directly to exhibitors and attendees with information about providing full refunds.”

The announcement follows a declaration of a state of emergency in Los Angeles, issued on March 4. There was also a tweet from publisher Devolver Digital Tuesday night which warned E3 attendees, “cancel your E3 flights and hotels, ya’ll.”

The postponement comes at a difficult time for the ESA and E3. While big-name participants like Microsoft and Nintendo planned to participate at this year’s expo, Sony is skipping the show for the second year in a row. Attendance at E3 has been flagging for several years, which the lobbying organization tried to compensate for by opening to the public in 2017. For the 2020 convention, the ESA said it wanted to “shake things up” with even more fan-focused programming.

While fan conventions like Chicago’s C2E2 and Boston’s PAX East went off with little interruption in recent weeks, several larger events have been canceled. They include the postponement of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco; the cancellation of SXSW in Austin, Texas; the cancellation of BitSummit in Kyoto, Japan; and the cancellation of the ReedPop’s Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Washington.

Update: This story has been updated with an official statement from the ESA.