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Coronavirus fears force video game industry to cancel E3

March 11, 2020, 3:41 PM UTC

E3, the video game industry’s annual trade show, will not take place this year, amid the continued spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Entertainment Software Association made the announcement Wednesday, saying it was cancelling the show as a precautionary move. Los Angeles one week ago declared a state of emergency because of the virus.

“Following increased and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus, we felt this was the best way to proceed during such an unprecedented global situation,” the ESA said in a statement. “We are very disappointed that we are unable to hold this event for our fans and supporters.  But we know it’s the right decision based on the information we have today.”

Show organizers say they’re considering an online experience in June and will share updates later. 

The move, which was expected after a flood of large trade show cancellations, comes at an awkward time. Both Sony and Microsoft are scheduled to launch new game systems later this year. While Sony had already announced it would not be at E3 for the second year in a row, Microsoft was planning to use the show as a launching pad for its marketing efforts for the Xbox Series X, giving gamers hands-on time with the console.

As it stands, the PlayStation 5 unveiling and more details about the Xbox Series X will likely be virtual events now, streamed online without any hands-on trials until immediately before the systems’ launch dates (assuming those launches aren’t delayed, which is a growing possibility).

E3 2020 was already facing several hurdles before the coronavirus outbreak hit. The organizer of the popular E3 Coliseum, Geoff Keighley, had publicly announced he would not be attending or helping organize those events this year. And last Thursday, one of the agencies helping re-imagine the show dropped out publicly.

Still, it’s a disappointing action for the ESA, which said just two weeks ago, “Given what we know at this time, we are moving ahead full speed with E3 2020 planning. Exhibit and registration sales are on track for an exciting show in June.”

While some are saying this cancellation could be a death knell for E3 forever, that’s unlikely. The 2019 show attracted more than 66,000 people for its three-day run in Los Angeles.

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