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E3 2021 could be a live stream – and it just won’t be the same

But how will it hold up?

Despite the cancellation of E3 2020 — and the slow downfall of the event as a whole — it looks like 2021 will still see it’s yearly iteration of the gaming event.

The ESA has stated that it will host a “reimagined experience” for E3 2021. Hopefully this new experience is one that can draw fans and presenters alike back to the once-acclaimed event. E3 2020 attempted a transition to digital experience — which ended up falling through for some reason. If E3 2021 ends up featuring a more fleshed-out digital experience, it may not feel like the same event. 

Live streams 

Gaming conferences could easily be replaced by live streamed events – which opens more opportunity for viewership. We’ve already seen a major player like Sony stepping away from E3 before the COVID-19 craziness leading to the event’s cancellation. They’ve instead opted to host their own online event — much like the upcoming “Summer of Gaming” IGN event. 

E3 is a mix of companies showcasing their latest developments and demos. Press conferences could easily be transitioned to a digital form – but the physical demoing and exploration would be lost. It would be difficult to replicate the same experience without the physicality of it. 

Booths are FUN.

A big part of E3 are the many boots filling the halls: different studios and publishers setting up shop to show off and live demo their newest projects. This also gives curious visitors the opportunity to learn more and chat with like-minded people in a physical space. Being able to play and experience upcoming titles could be replicated in an online demo, but likely won’t. New media and content will still be available, but demos aren’t as big of an attraction online anymore.

When physical live demos are present, it’s a bit of a different story. You’re there to see and experience that specific thing first. Visitors for E3 would often get first glance at new developments, and the exclusivity adds to the experience.

E3 2019 booth demo
Visitors playing Spider-Man at E3 2019

At Ottawa Comic-Con last year I got to try a game called Haste. I’ve since realized two things — the booth was the only reason I was able to sit down and enjoy the game, and without being able to be there and talk to the developer I probably would’ve never given it a second glance. I probably wouldn’t have even bothered had I just seen it in early access on Steam. Physical experiences can draw you in and in my case, being able to talk to the devs was half of my enjoyment. 

Cosplayers and people as a whole

When at E3 – it being a gaming event – you’re bound to run into cosplayers and other people living out their gaming fantasy. Cosplay is great: you get to see your favorite characters come to life and admire the hard work put into making them look authentic. While you can see cosplays at many events, E3 always had some of the best cosplayers in the world gathered in one spot.

The people aspect of E3 in general is hard to replicate via live stream. Lots of online friends meet for the first time at events like these. Even YouTuber groups that play together get to use these events as an opportunity to meet each other and their fans. Sometimes you may even catch your favorite streamer, pro player, or even developer. 

For some, events like E3 are like going to a concert for your favorite band. And getting to see your favorite streamer/player or even CEO — Tim Schafer, Todd Howard come to mind — is a golden experience. 

Crash Bandicoot mascot
To be honest I would’ve loved to meet the guy wearing the Crash Bandi-suit. Even if he wasn’t in costume.

Physical conventions are experiences above all

Despite all the stereotyping, gamers don’t actually want to sit around locked inside all day. E3 is – or was – a great way to enjoy your hobby out of your gaming chair. If you’ve ever gone to a convention or an expo like Comiccon, you know the feeling. Being surrounded by like-minded people in a space dedicated to your shared passion is magical.

Sure, E3 2021 could try to replace that with a digital walking tour and live streamed events – but that makes it infinitely less fun. Yes, you would still see all the same sights, but you lose the chance to experience everything – you lose the *magic*.

The disappearance of large events – for now

As the pandemic continues, it’s becoming more and more likely that events will transition to a digital format, and that’s okay. The fact that such events go on in any form gives gamers the opportunity to learn about all the newest developments in the gaming world.

Hopefully E3 is able to make a return to its physical format eventually. While many think the event has been on the decline for a while, I think E3 still holds an important place in the gaming industry, and the lack of expo this year could prove that. 

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Kevin Dewan

Writer for SQUAD, runs after things a lot. Won't BM you to your face. Okay with losing as long as it's funny.
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