Given that much of the game industry’s revenues come from digital games, physical events like E3 that satisfied the needs of brick-and-mortar retailers were becoming largely unnecessary. The spectacle of a big show and the attention that ornate booths and billboards generated were great marketing for game publishers and the industry at large, but the ROI given the associated costs has been dubious. Publishers have come to realize that they can take advantage of social media, streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube, and major online influencers to carefully control their messaging and engage fans directly in a far more cost-effective manner.
- After E3 2020 was canceled amid the pandemic, E3 2021 is coming back on June 12th as a fully digital event and will conclude with an all-new awards show to honor the most anticipated games (among those revealed during the event). Gamescom, the largest in-person gaming event, held a successful digital version in 2020 and is returning with a digital format on August 21st.
- Other big events are following suit. PAX East is being replaced with PAX Online this July, the Game Developers Conference will be offered to industry professionals as an online conference starting July 19th, QuakeCon will kick off on August 19th as a digital-only event, the Tokyo Game Show will be online for its 25th year starting September 30th, and more.
- Meanwhile, industry veteran Geoff Keighley is promoting a season of digital events with publishers and developers throughout the summer months. Keighley’s Summer Game Fest starts on June 10th and features participation from numerous gaming companies, including platform holders Microsoft and Sony. The introduction of Summer Game Fest coincides with an increasing trend from game companies to leverage direct online events too – we’ve seen Capcom do this for Monster Hunter and Resident Evil, Nintendo has its own regular “Nintendo Direct” series, PlayStation has “State of Play” events, and more. Next up will be the Xbox and Bethesda Games showcase on June 13th.