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E3 2020 gaming expo officially canceled due to coronavirus

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has become the most recent victim of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. E3 2020 has officially been canceled.

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The Electronic Software Association (ESA) confirmed the gaming expo’s cancellation Wednesday morning on the official E3 Twitter account and on the E3 website. Citing concerns over the coronavirus, the press release confirms the cancellation is due to concerns over the safety of everyone who would have attended the event.

The E3 team is devastated to share this news. This decision was not reached lightly, but it is the right one for the health and safety of all involved. Read our statement here:

— E3 (@E3) March 11, 2020

Microsoft executive Phil Spencer reacted instantly to the decision, revealing Team Xbox would be holding its own digital event instead of its E3 presentation — which happily means Xbox fans won’t be going home empty-handed in June.

“The health and safety of employees, fans and our partners around the world is a top priority. We support the ESA in its decision to cancel E3 following increased public concerns with the COVID-19 virus,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Digital Trends. “E3 has always been an important moment for us to show what’s ahead from Team Xbox. This year we’ll celebrate the next generation of gaming with the Xbox community and all who love to play around the world via a digital event. We will share details on timing and more in the coming weeks.”

The decision was apparently scheduled to go live Tuesday, March 10, but did not materialize, and was subsequently leaked by multiple sources speaking to Ars Technica. Those sources were then backed up by a short tweet by the developer Devolver Digital, which appeared to confirm the rumors. The ESA previously published how it was planning on responding to the outbreak, with hand-washing guidance and avoiding contact with those who are sick.

For the unfamiliar, E3 is the biggest annual show in gaming. Stretched out over three days every June, it’s the premier event for publishers to show off new games. While the event has been rocked by a number of blunders and major mistakes over the years, E3 is still one of the biggest and busiest events for the gaming industry — and it’s seen as so vital it hasn’t missed a year since 1996. That is, until now.

It is surprising to see the show postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, as it is only the latest in a number of events canceled by the virus. On Tuesday, Huawei broke the news it would not be holding a physical launch event for its new P40 Pro smartphone, and would instead be holding an online event. Other large-scale events have also been canceled due to fears the outbreak could be worsened, including Google’s annual I/O conference and the Geneva Motor Show. The virus has even pushed back the release of the new James Bond film, No Time to Die.

But this major cancellation could have a bigger impact on E3 than some other events. Social media means it is easier than ever to make huge announcements without the need for a third party, and we’re seeing more and more big names start to drop out of the convention. Sony had already dropped out of E3 for the second year in a row, while Nintendo has effectively replaced the show with its own Nintendo Direct online events. Publisher Ubisoft said it would explore “a digital experience” to share the announcements it was planning to make at E3.

An update regarding E3 2020.

— Ubisoft (@Ubisoft) March 11, 2020

Really, the loss of E3 this year will underline whether publishers and developers need E3 anymore.

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