Xbox, Sony, and Nintendo will not have a presence at this year’s E3 in Los Angeles, IGN reports. The absence of all three console platform holders would be a considerable setback for E3 owner the Entertainment Software Association, which is looking for a fresh start for the show as it returns to physical events for the first time since 2019 under new organizers ReedPop.
Microsoft has already committed to airing an Xbox showcase timed to coincide with E3’s dates in June, but IGN’s report suggests that it will not have a booth on the show floor, which will be open to the public for part of the show’s run.
It’s not known if Sony and Nintendo will time showcases alongside E3, but again, it is said neither will have a presence at the show itself.
IGN’s sources pointed to “ongoing frustrations” with the ESA’s management of E3. The digital version of the show held in 2021 was misconceived, and even before the coronavirus pandemic hit and forced the cancellation of physical events, the ESA was losing key exhibitors and suffering damaging scandals like the 2019 leak of attendee’s personal details.
Meanwhile, ReedPop — which runs the PAX gaming shows, as well as other pop culture shows like New York Comic Con — is said to be surprisingly disorganized, with details of the redefined E3 remaining unclear. “There’s not a good sense that there’s an understanding what this show is going to be or how it will come together, which is strange from a company that does such an amazing job with PAX twice a year,” the source told IGN.
ReedPop and the ESA have much to prove, as they face direct competition from Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest, which will hold its first in-person event this year after a successful run of broadcast showcases.
However, the fact is that each of the “big three” console companies has its own reasons for missing E3 this year. None necessarily has that much to do with the way the event is being run — and, when you look at the background, none comes as a great surprise.
Sony has long since cut its ties with E3, not having exhibited at the show since 2018 after an apparent disagreement with the ESA. Unlike the others, it has even moved the dates of its online showcases away from E3 week in June.
Nintendo is usually a stalwart of the E3 show floor, but VGC reports that it has decided to skip this year because it will have few major releases ready to show. Its big 2023 release, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, comes out before the show in May, and there is increasing speculation that Switch is nearing the end of its life, and Nintendo is holding other big projects back for a successor console.
Xbox, by contrast, has much to promote this year, including Starfield and Forza Motorsport, which both seem destined for the second half of the year after initially being expected earlier. But Microsoft is said to be in cost-cutting mode after a large round of layoffs, which affected developers like Halo studio 343 Industries, as well as disappointing financial results for the Xbox division.
VGC reports that Microsoft is still in negotiations with E3 and may have a smaller presence at the show for business and media. It’s also possible that it will opt for its own show floor space at the neighboring Microsoft Theater, as it did in 2019.
ReedPop released a statement to Polygon, saying, “Since ReedPop took on the contract to run E3 six months ago, we’ve worked diligently with ESA members, using their feedback to create a new type of E3 that supports their goals and needs. This process takes time and we are working to balance getting it right, and being inclusive, with getting it done quickly. E3 is a deeply significant event for the game industry and being entrusted with an important cultural touchstone is not a responsibility ReedPop takes lightly.
“We continue to work tirelessly to create a show that brings together the global gaming industry. We believe we’ve created a new format for the event that serves the needs of both the industry and its fans, and are committed to building and growing it in the coming years.”
With new organizers, new competition, and an unsteady industry emerging from a global pandemic and facing tough economic conditions, it was never likely that this year’s E3 would be plain sailing. All eyes will be on the L.A. Convention Center from June 13 to 16 to see how the reborn show finds its feet.