ReedPop takes on the challenge of E3 – but can they make it work?

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA)struggling owners and organizers of the annual videogames mecca Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)have joined with pop culture mega-organiser ReedPop in a bid to reverse the fortunes of the event and return it to in-person programming. The first ReedPop-run E3 will take place in “the second week of June 2023”, according to a public statement.

The statement reads:

“E3, the world’s premier celebration of interactive entertainment, will make its long-awaited return to the Los Angeles Convention Center in the second week of June, 2023. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) will partner with ReedPop, the veteran event production company behind PAX, New York Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration, and other acclaimed celebrations of pop culture, to reunite the global video game industry for a week of Titanic AAA reveals, earth-shaking world premieres, and exclusive access to the future of video games .

“E3 2023 will welcome back publishers, developers, producers, content creators, manufacturers, buyers, and licensors. The event will also highlight digital showcases and feature in-person consumer components.”

Lance FinstermanCEO of ReedPop is also quoted, saying:

“With the support and endorsement of the ESA, we’re going to build a world class event to serve the global gaming industry in new and broader ways than we already do at ReedPop through our portfolio of world leading events and web sites.”

A new E3 organising team will be formed with ReedPop Global VP of Gaming’s Kyle Marsden-Kish taking on the challenge.

The ESA’s President and CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis is quoted in the statement:

“We are thrilled to bring back E3 as an in-person event with ReedPop, a global leader in producing pop culture events…The past three years have confirmed that E3 convenes our industry like no other event. ReedPop brings world-class talent and a keen understanding of the video game industry, which will serve to enhance the E3 experience for years to come.”

E3 started as an industry event where the biggest scoops and reveals from the major players of the videogame space – including from the major console companies Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo – would be unveiled in front of insiders, professionals, publishers and publishers. The event takes place in or around the month of June and has had a long-time home at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

From 2016 onwards the ESA sought to expand the event and open E3 to the public – which was met with mixed results. The of major players like Sony, EA and Activision, as well as the decisions to hold online showcases via Twitch and YouTube outside the exclusivity of the event, plus a data leak in 2019 that exposed the home addresses of who attended, and the outbreak of COVID in early 2020 have all added to the event’s ongoing woes.

E3 2020 was canceled, a lacklustre virtual 2021 event was attempted but this year the ESA decided to not hold an in person or virtual event at all – leaving the field wide open for Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest. Next year, Keighly plans to make Summer Game Fest both a physical and in-person event, which means it will be competing directly with E3.

For ReedPop, the pickup of a major (albeit diminishing) brand like E3 can be considered a big deal – and it isn’t their first partnership either. They have an ongoing partnership with Lucasfilm, securing them the license to hold the Star Wars Celebration; they have a deal with CBS for Star Trek events; and they had previously partnered with Penny Arcade for PAX (which they are now sole organisers of).

With the withdrawal of ReedPop from the international con circuit over the past three years, and the doubling down on their core markets in the US – coupled with the company’s experiences successfully running PAX and EGX, plus owning the Gamer Network family of websites – E3 could be considered a no-brainer. Add to the mix ReedPop and parent company RX’s (formerly Reed Exhibitions) wealth and depth of experience in running B2B trade shows and you could, in theory, have the best of both worlds in terms of expertise.

That said, there are risks and ReedPop haven’t always managed to reverse the fortunes of flagging trade events. Reed Exhibitions had run BookExpo America since taking over and renaming it from the American Booksellers Association Convention and Trade Show in 1995. The formation of ReedPop in 2006 carried the trade show and added its public facing partner BookCon in 2014 until the onset of the pandemic. Declines and consideration of restructure forced the show into a sudden “retirement” in late 2020. So this could also be the fate of E3. ReedPop also has to figure out how to balance E3’s tradition as a press-focused conference and the recent push to open it up to the public.

Christopher Dring, Head of Games B2B at GamesIndustry.biz – part of ReedPop’s Gamer Network – said this in a post about his involvement in joining the new team attempting to revive the moribund E3 and the challenges of the show:

“E3 is a challenged show. It’s an event in transition, much like the rest of the games industry, and everyone has different views on what it should be.

“… E3 undoubtedly has questions to answer, and criticism to react to. How do you make the event good for consumers, when so many of the games are behind closed doors? How do you bring in fans and improve the experience for business attendees at the same time? How do you make it more accessible to more developers, and not reliant on an existing consolidating number of AAA publishers? How do you expand beyond the console industry and engage more with mobile and PC? How do you regain the trust of attendees and exhibitors who have decided it’s not for them?

“And how do you make it a fully inclusive event that celebrates and units the games industry?”

A lot of questions to answer – and we shall see if ReedPop can pull it off.

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