The regular gaming bonanza that is E3 took another blow this week, as their creative directors at iam8bit have resigned from the role. However, the Electronic Software Association (ESA) that runs the show insist that their creative team are still well equipped to reinvigorate the expo.
It’s with mixed emotions that @iam8bit has decided to resign as Creative Directors of what was to be an evolutionary #E32020 floor experience. We’ve produced hundreds of gaming + community events and it was a dream to be involved with E3. We wish the organizers the best of luck.
— iam8bit (@iam8bit) March 5, 2020
It’s the latest in a string of stories over the past year that have called into question the status and future of E3 as the games industry’s centrepiece event. Sony declared in January that they would not be attending the show in 2020, stating that they “do not feel the vision of E3 2020 is the right venue for what we are focused on this year.” That follows EA deciding to hold their own separate EA Play events several years ago, regular exhibitor Activision stepping out on 2019, and of course, Sony’s no show last year as well. Meanwhile, Geoff Keighly will not be hosting E3 Live, and there’s the continuing discontent after the ESA leaked the personal details of over 2,000 journalists last year.
iam8bit were signed back in January as “tastemakers” for E3, the company having built up its brand and reputation off the back of limited edition indie game releases, vinyl soundtracks and merchandise. The ESA had been hoping to grow E3 into more of a public oriented event, as opposed to the press-focussed show that it has been for the majority of its 25 years, and bringing on outside advisors will certainly have helped in that. It certainly seems that there’s continued conflict over the show’s future, with iam8bit having planned an “evolutionary E3 2020 floor experience.”
In a statement to Ars Technica, the ESA said:
We can confirm that iam8bit is no longer part of the inter-agency group working on E3 2020. We greatly value their passion for the video game industry and the contributions they brought toward our vision for this year’s show. We have an innovative and experienced team in place including Endeavor’s creative agency 160over90, event innovators Mat+Lo, and longtime E3 partners GES, Dolaher Events, and Double Forte—all collaborating to bring to life an exciting and authentic experience for fans, the media and the industry.
Of course, there’s big question marks over whether or not the event will go ahead anyway, as the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus is being felt throughout the games industry. A number of games conventions such as PAX East, GDC, EVE Fanfest and esports events like the Overwatch League and PUBG’s PBS Berlin have already been called off or affected. PAX East saw a number of larger companies like Sony and Square Enix backing out, while so many exhibitors cancelled plans to attend GDC that the show has been postponed. We’ve also seen the virus affecting manufacturing for Valve Index headsets and Nintendo Switch consoles, and even a delay to the release of The Outer Worlds on Switch.
It’s entirely plausible that a large international public event like E3 could be called off if the situation around the world worsens over the next month. Heck, even comparatively smaller events for the next gen PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X could be quietly shelved, as fears over international travel and the spread of the virus grow.
The ESA are currently intending for the event to go ahead, saying that it “continues to plan for a safe and successful E3,” and is following WHO and CDC guidelines. That’s the correct course of action for the time being, but could easily change as we get into April or May, if the virus continues to spread in the US.
For my money? I bet it’s cancelled.