E3, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, will once again be an online-only affair in 2022, according to a statement from its organizers. The Electronic Software Association (ESA) said Thursday that it’s returning to a digital E3 format “due to the ongoing health risks surrounding COVID-19 and its potential impact on the safety of exhibitors and attendees,” according to a report from GamesBeat.
Since December, the COVID-19 omicron variant has spread rapidly, disrupting businesses, travel, education, and healthcare. Omicron has thus contributed to hundreds of thousands of new infections each day in the U.S., where E3 is held. This week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw multiple major tech companies pull out of the in-person event over health concerns related to the virus’ spread.
The ESA said last year that it had planned for E3 2022 to return to an in-person event, as it had been since the expo was first held in 1995. After canceling 2020’s event, citing coronavirus concerns, E3 2021 was held online over the course of four days. Publishers and developers including Nintendo, Ubisoft, Xbox, Square Enix, Capcom and Warner Bros. all participated in E3 2021. E3 2021 was free to watch and featured hours of programming in between publisher-held livestreams, like Ubisoft Forward and a Nintendo Direct presentation.
E3 organizers did not detail their new plans for this year’s event, only saying in a statement that the ESA is “nonetheless excited about the future of E3 and look forward to announcing more details soon.” But with the in-person expo scrapped for the third year in a row, the ESA is once again missing out on a major source of its revenue. Combined with competition from independent publisher events and Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest — Keighley tweeted just minutes after the ESA’s statement went live that his E3 competitor would return in 2022 — it’s unclear just what kind of future E3 has after all.