“We’re excited about coming back in 2023 with both a digital and an in-person event,” ESA president and CEO Stan Pierre-Louis told The Washington Post in an interview. “As much as we love these digital events, and as much as they reach people and we want that global reach, we also know that there’s a really strong desire for people to convene — to be able to connect in person and see each other and talk about what makes games great.”
Since 1995, the Los Angeles-based convention has served as the video game industry’s annual epicenter for major product announcements. But a string of controversies dogged the event in 2021, including restrictions on who could live stream E3′s digital-only 2021 event and a “friend-finding” social feature that revealed users’ personal details. And with game publishers increasingly relying on digital showcases instead of costly trips to La., reports suggest that trouble was brewing for this year’s E3 even before the ESA pulled the plug on in-person and digital events, cited concerns around the omicron variant.
When asked about these reports, Pierre-Louis declined to answer directly, saying: “What I can tell you is that covid has been a driving factor for anyone who conducts physical events for the past three years.”
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Keighley’s competing Summer Game Fest event includes a press-focused in-person component in Los Angeles, though at a much smaller scale than E3′s typical gathering of over 50,000 people. Meanwhile, a rotating series of digital-only presentations like Nintendo Direct, Sony’s State of Play and regular showcases by Microsoft have largely occupied the hole left by E3, giving individual games more room to breathe and alleviating costs publishers were forced to spend on travel and game demos.
Still, Pierre-Louis said he believes there’s something to be said for doing things the old-fashioned way.
“I think what’s great about all this experimentation is that companies of all sizes are trying to figure out what works best to promote the product and the content that they are looking to share with consumers,” he said. “And I think there is a space for a physical show; I think there’s an importance of having digital reach. Combining those two, I think there is a critical element of what we think E3 can provide.”
Typically, the ESA announces the dates for the following year’s E3 at the conclusion of the current year’s event — which would normally be taking place around this time. Last year, it did not do so, leading to a cancellation announcement at the beginning of 2022. So far, the ESA has yet to announce dates for next year.
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Instead, this week the ESA is publishing its 2022 “Essential Facts About the Video Game Industry” report, which draws on a survey of over 4,000 US residents ages 18 and older. Among its findings: More than 65 percent of Americans play video games, 89 percent of players say video games provide stress relief, 88 percent say video games help improve cognitive skills and 61 percent of players say video games have helped them stay connected with family. Pierre-Louis characterized this as clear evidence that video games continue to receive a boost from the pandemic, and that games have conferred numerous benefits to Americans over the course of the past few years.
That in mind, Pierre-Louis said he was surprised to see politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) try to foist blame for recent mass shootings on video games.
“We discourage baseless accusations linking these tragedies to video gameplay because the science is clear and has been for a long time: Independent research points to the fact that video games don’t serve as a source for real world violence — so much so that the Supreme Court in 2011 ruled that video games are protected,” Pierre-Louis said. “I think the most telling fact and statistic is that the same video games sold in the United States are sold all around the world. And yet, we’re the only country that has this level of violence and gun violence in particular.”