E3 2020 cancelled due to coronavirus, but not all is lost

It doesn’t look there’s going to be an E3 this year. As more and more public events are effected by the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), including music festivals and the likely possibility of sporting events, E3 2020 has now been canceled. While it does not appear as though the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) — the body responsible for hosting E3 since 1995 — has yet to make an official announcement, the industry’s biggest event of the year is likely to get has now been canceled. But as an increasing number of publishers have been pulling out of E3 in the last few years — Sony hasn’t even shown up since 2018 — the disappointing news doesn’t mean all is lost. More details below.

(Update 3/11 1:30pm): Microsoft’s head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, has now confirmed a digital showcase after news of the E3 2020 cancellation, as expected. As opposed to filling up the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles this summer for E3, Microsoft will instead host a digital showcase with details landing in the coming weeks:

E3 has always been an important moment for Team Xbox. Given this decision, this year we’ll celebrate the next generation of gaming with the @Xbox community and all who love to play via an Xbox digital event. Details on timing and more in the coming weeks

E3 2020 cancelled

When publisher Devolver Digital initially broke the news on Twitter, it seemed to bad to be true. But since then, the E3 2020 cancelled train was in full steam after reports from Bloomberg and Ars Technica suggested as much. In fact, according to those in the know, an official announcement will be made any second now. At the time of writing, the ESA Twitter page and official website are yet to take an official stance, but Ars Technica has now confirmed the bad news. 

It seemed as though E3 2020 would indeed take place after the ESA said it is “moving ahead full speed with E3 2020 planning,” to Vice a couple days ago and an official blog post in January. But now it sounds as though the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is pushing the group to move to what could be an entirely digital E3.

The ESA and its E3 convention have been in some trouble as of late, and the coronavirus issues certainly aren’t helping. Major publishers like EA already host separate events during E3, not to mention Sony once again confirming it will not make an appearance for the second straight year in what is arguably a generation-defining year for the company’s upcoming PS5. After Game Awards host Geoff Keighley backed out of E3 2020 and the ESA accidentally leaking thousands of personal details of attendees, the last thing the E3 needed was a coronavirus outbreak. Or was it?

Is there going to be an E3 this year?

Well, no, not in the traditional form anyway. But could this all be a sort of terrible blessing in disguise?

We already know Sony is almost certainly going to have all sorts of streamed events in promotion of PlayStation 5 and its launch lineup. And Microsoft certainly isn’t going to sit idol as its competitive Xbox Series X is set to launch later this year as well. We are already used to Nintendo doing its own streaming events anyway, despite confirming its appearance on the show floor this year. While there’s nothing like the excitement of a big-time E3 press conference, especially in a generational console launch year, the likely canceled E3 2020 event could leave our favorite companies with more time and resources to show us what we really want to see, the games. Not to mention the ability for the ESA to almost reboot its annual gaming convention to be even bigger and better in the future. It has clearly had a rough go of it lately, and some time to reassess the situation due to an all-digital event this year could be just what the doctor ordered.

While it seems as though the announcement is last minute, you can bet that almost all major publishers have been a part of making the decision to cancel E3 2020 and have had about as much notice to alter their plans as possible. We will report back when we get more details on official summer events for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and the rest of what was expected at this year’s E3 event.

We will get our first taste of pre-release Xbox Series X content starting next week on Mixer. Microsoft’s Team Game Stack — a group responsible for the platform’s developers and the like – has posted its live streaming schedule here with a talk entitled “Xbox Series X + Project xCloud = New Chapter in Gaming.” It will take place on Wednesday, March 18 and you can get more details on that right here.

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