E3's first physical event in four years was supposed to be a triumphant return for the trade show — an opportunity to recapture some of the excitement of past conventions, which historically have been major showcase events for the games industry.
However, it appears that when E3 2023 hits the Los Angeles Convention Center in June, it will be without three of its most important draws. IGN has heard from multiple knowledgeable sources that Xbox, Sony, and Nintendo won't be part of E3 2023 or have a presence on the Los Angeles Convention Center showfloor.
This information comes on the heels of Xbox's announcement last week that it would be returning to Los Angeles for its annual summer showcase while declining to confirm whether it would be part of the show itself.
Speaking with IGN last week, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer said the platform holder is timing its showcase with E3 at a moment "convenient for press and even consumers" at the event, meaning it's likely to roughly align with the event itself. Spencer also stressed Xbox's public support for E3 and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). However, IGN understands that Xbox won't have a booth on the showfloor.
"E3 is just, to me, one of the seminal moments of gaming. I love the history of going down to LA, thousands of people there, getting to see great new things…getting to see people in the industry, the fan events that we've had. I definitely want that to continue," Spencer said.
"Xbox is on the board of the ESA, and I think a successful and healthy ESA is critical to what we're trying to go do. So we place our showcase, like we always have done, at a time where hopefully it's convenient for press and even consumers that are going to the E3 event, and that's what we're trying to do now. We will continue to work with ESA in terms of their plans. As I said, we're on the board, and we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help make the E3 successful."
Xbox's current plans for the showcase remain unconfirmed, but in previous years it has held a showcase, preview events, and press mixers. Internally, Xbox has recently suffered layoffs and other cuts, forcing it to tighten its belt following a year that saw virtually no major releases.
Xbox's decision not to have a formal presence on E3's showfloor comes as a surprise given its support for the event in the past. Out of the so-called "Big Three," it appeared the most likely to be at E3, not the least because it has several major releases to promote in 2023, including Starfield
Nintendo has also traditionally maintained a booth on E3's showfloor even after pioneering the "Direct" format. However, IGN has heard from sources around the industry that neither Nintendo nor Sony will be at E3 2023, with PlayStation originally dropping out in 2019 over reported disagreements with the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). It's currently unclear whether Nintendo and Sony intend to time a showcase with the event.
Representatives from Nintendo, Sony, Xbox, and the ESA did not return requests for comment by press time. ReedPop provided the following statement.
E3 is such a significant event for the game industry and being entrusted with an important cultural touchstone is not a responsibility ReedPop takes lightly. Since ReedPop took on the contract to run E3 six months ago, we've worked diligently with ESA members based on their feedback to create a new type of E3 that supports their goals and needs.
This process has taken time due to the tremendous amount of stakeholders offering input, though we appreciate that we could have been more transparent to questions for which we were still finalizing the answers. 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.
As we spent much of 2022 refining how E3 2023 would take shape, reflecting on the feedback we solicited, we did not send a single contract to an exhibitor until the start of this month. We have received a tremendous amount of interest and verbal commitments from many of the biggest companies in the industry, and when we are ready to announce the exhibitors we are confident it will be a lineup that will make the trip to Los Angeles well worth it for the industry and consumers alike.
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'A big blow for E3'
The news has the potential to be a big blow for E3, which is attempting to reestablish itself with the help of events company ReedPop, Ampere analyst Piers Harding-Rolls tells IGN. "The show floor will certainly miss the buzz and scale of the platform holder stands."
With Microsoft already confirming a summer showcase, Rolls says it's "likely the Xbox buzz will radiate across E3." However, the uncertainty around Nintendo in particular may put a damper on things.
"It’s unfortunate that the physical event returns when Nintendo is at the tail end of the Switch lifecycle, with no sign of a next-gen device this year," Rolls says. "I'm not sure it will have many games to show this year, so it makes sense to skip."
As for Sony, Rolls observed that it has been skipping big events "for several cycles now."
"It doesn't stop it having an online showcase of some sort in the same window, but on the basis of recent history it wouldn't be a huge surprise to hear it plans to skip E3 2023 as well," he explains. "All three companies have an effective online showcase strategy, which gives them good flexibility to mix and match their promotional activity during, before or after the big traditional events."
According to one knowledgeable source, there have been "ongoing frustrations" with the ESA over the last three years, who they claim have "incredibly mishandled the E3 brand over the last three years." They corroborated other IGN sources in saying that several major E3 organizers have departed the ESA, "leaving a new group to sweep up after them," and criticized ReedPop's handling of the event.
The source claims that ReedPop began contacting publishers about E3 last fall while promising to book spots in December. But with less than six months to go until E3, the sources says there's "a lot of missing information."
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.
"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," they told IGN. "It seemed like they'd be the perfect shepherds for something like E3. So who knows where the issue is: Is it an ESA issue? Is it a ReedPop issue?… But there seems to be a lot of genuine interest from game publishers in the concept of E3, but it's really frustrating that we don't have good solutions."
With little clarity on whether E3 will represent a good return on investment, and the tech space more uncertain than ever, many publishers appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to E3 2023, at least for now.
"The information flow hasn't been great. I don't think anyone wants to be the first to go out there?" IGN's source claimed, which corroborates other conversations we've had around the industry.
The ESA confirmed last year that E3 2023 would be held from June 13 to 16, with the 15th and 16th being "E3 Gamer Days" open to the public. It is being organized in collaboration with ReedPop, the company responsible for Star Wars Celebration, New York Comic Con, and PAX [Disclosure: I am a former ReedPop employee, where I was in charge of running the now-defunct USgamer until 2020].
Events have been trying to recover from the hammer blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw major events canceled across the games industry and beyond. E3 sought to join Gamescom, PAX, and other consumer events in returning in 2022, but was ultimately canceled.
This year will see the event return at last, but with digital showcases more prevalent than ever, and the major first parties unlikely to appear, it may be a while before E3 returns to anything approaching its former stature.
This article was updated with a statement from ReedPop.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.