Video game companies and media outlets have attended E3 (short for Electronic Entertainment Expo) every year since the show's debut in 1995, but that streak will come to an end in 2020. The Entertainment Software Association has canceled this year's event due to concerns about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the COVID-19 respiratory disease that it causes.
E3 now joins Mobile World Congress and Game Developers Conference among the ranks of large industry trade shows that have been canceled due to the novel coronavirus. The expo had been set to take place from June 9 through June 11, but it's not surprising that the event was canceled, and it's unlikely that it will be rescheduled.
What does E3's cancellation mean for game companies?
E3 would have been an opportunity for companies including Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two Interactive to showcase new software for Sony's (NYSE:SNE) upcoming PlayStation 5 console and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) upcoming Xbox Series X console. However, the event was already shaping up to be smaller than shows from other years preceding major console launches.
Sony had already announced it wouldn't attend E3 prior to COVID-19 concerns escalating, likely in favor of putting on its own conference or video presentation. A strong E3 showing can generate hype and boost sales in some cases, but the show isn't as important for the industry as it used to be. Publishers can now reach tens of millions of potential customers with online game trailers and social-media posts.
COVID-19 has spurred market sell-offs that have depressed the valuations of leading video game companies, and the string of trade-show cancellations shows that the tech industry is taking the threat seriously. However, it's unlikely E3's cancellation will have a major impact on large publishers.