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E3, the biggest video game event of the year, is canceled because of coronavirus

The 25-year-old annual trade show was set to return to Los Angeles in June.

People wait in line at the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3, in Los Angeles, California, on June 11, 2019.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The 2020 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) — the single biggest trade show in the video game industry — has been canceled. The Entertainment Software Association, which organizes the event, announced that it would not go forward with the annual event due to coronavirus fears in California, where E3 takes place.

“After careful consultation with our member companies regarding the health and safety of everyone in our industry — our fans, our employees, our exhibitors and our longtime E3 partners — we have made the difficult decision to cancel E3 2020, scheduled for June 9-11 in Los Angeles,” the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said in a statement.

The organization added that it will contact exhibitors and attendees about providing full refunds for passes, and that it is considering ways to “coordinate an online experience” in lieu of the in-person event. It also maintained that E3 will return in 2021.

Cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Northern California, and the World Health Organization has classified it as a pandemic. With E3 attracting people from around the world, it’s logical that the ESA would choose to cancel the event.

Although E3 has evolved over the years from a private to a public event, it has run uninterrupted since 1995. It’s renowned for being the occasion where important video game publishers and console-makers announce their plans for upcoming projects and hardware. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft typically preview their marquee titles for the year and beyond at E3, and the media are often given the chance to try out these and other video games for the first time. It’s the buzziest time of year for the gaming industry.

But companies have also increasingly turned to their direct channels to provide news to consumers. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft frequently host live-streamed events to announce games and consoles, making E3 seem less relevant. Both Sony and Nintendo have also moved their traditional E3 press conferences fully online in recent years.

The ESA opened up the event to the public in 2016 in an attempt to drum up more revenue and interest, but many companies continue to skip the event in favor of hosting their own. It’s hard to imagine the video game industry news cycle without E3, however, especially after 25 years of its existence. In 2020, we’ll have to.

Several other video game and tech events have been upended by the spread of the coronavirus. The Game Developers Conference, another major gaming event, has been postponed until later this year; it was initially set to run March 16 to 20 in San Francisco, but the organizers have not yet announced a new date.

The company behind many cities’ Comic Cons, Reedpop, said last week that it would reschedule Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con event to later this year as well. The decision raises questions as to how Reedpop’s most visible convention, San Diego Comic-Con, could be affected come its planned July dates.

South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, which was to begin on March 13, was similarly canceled just a week before its start date by the mayor of Austin. All public gatherings have been prohibited in the city due to coronavirus fears. The decision has left the many local businesses in Austin that benefit from the music, film, and technology festival’s crowd feeling the financial impact.