Video gamers, here’s what to expect from an all-digital E3. Find out when to watch, how to stream

The virtual stage is set for this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, returning as an all-digital event, due to the pandemic, instead of the annual pilgrimage to L.A. to cram into the Los Angeles Convention Center.

But the focus of the four-day celebration, taking place June 12-15, remains the same as the annual show that first debuted in 1995: to catch a glimpse at upcoming video games and new hardware, attend press conferences and panels, and perhaps spot celebrity appearances.

“For more than two decades, E3 has been the premier event and showcase for the video game industry,” says Stanley Pierre-Louis, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), a Washington, D.C.-based organization that serves as the voice and advocate for the video game industry.

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Stanley Pierre-Louis, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association. (Photo: Entertainment Software Association)

“Even before the pandemic, we recognized the importance of reaching out to the digital audience, and so this new format creates exciting opportunities to bring fans, the media and industry together all under one tent” adds Pierre-Louis. “So, we’re going to continue the power of what E3 does, but do it in a showcase that’s online to bring more people in.”

While an online show means E3 attendees won’t have hands-on time with games in development, or new consoles and accessories, the all-digital event has its advantages: anyone can tune in, for free, and from the comfort of their home.

Another benefit: attendees do not need to be in the industry. 

“Historically, E3 was an opportunity for professionals in the video game business to get together, for companies to meet with retailers, wholesalers and analysts, and people who write about the business,” explains Strauss Zelnick, chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software, the parent company to publishing labels Rockstar Games and 2K. “It’ll be interesting to see what an all-digital version looks like…we’re happy to participate.”

When pressed about benefits of an online show, Zelnick quickly replied with “broader distribution. You can just show up without having to fly anywhere.”

As for not needing credentials to attend, “everyone should take advantage of that,” suggests Zelnick. “This is a unique moment in time.”

Typically, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, draws tens of thousands to the Los Angeles Convention Center to learn about what is coming in the world of video games. This year, you can attend online. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN, AFP via Getty Images)

E3: What you can expect

Fans first register at the official website of the expo:

Doing so grants attendees access to the official E3 portal and app, which features a real-time activity feed that includes upcoming and past events (such as livestreamed publisher showcases), social and editorial content, interactive panels, and other content.

E3 2021 will be hosted by Kinda Funny co-founder Greg Miller, Emmy-nominated host Jacki Jing, and esports commentator Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez.

Along with the E3 site and app, other hubs to watch the E3 2021 broadcast include:

  • E3’s Twitch Channel
  • E3’s YouTube Channel
  • E3’s Twitter Feed
  • E3’s Facebook Portal

Major video game sites, like IGN, have their own streaming E3 channel, too, which can also be accessed on mobile devices, some video game consoles (like Xbox One), Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Pluto TV, Plex Live TV and other platforms.

Confirmed partners this year include Xbox, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Square Enix, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Games, Capcom, Konami, Bandai Namco, and Sega, to name a few. Sony has decided to continue its recent trend of stepping back from E3.

Two years ago, Microsoft Xbox head Phil Spencer announced the Xbox Project Scarlett console, which would eventually be named Xbox Series X, during the E3 gaming convention. This year, Spencer will announce Xbox news during a live stream event Sunday, June 13. (Photo: Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images)

On top of that, gear makers — like Razer, Otterbox, Arcade 1Up, Turtle Beach and Intellivision — will have various hardware of their own to show.

The show officially kicks off Saturday at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT with a Broadcast Pre-Show, followed by a pair of Ubisoft events, showcasing the next Rainbow Six game (dubbed “Rainbow Six Extraction”), the open-world shooter “Far Cry 6,” the free-to-play “Tom Clancy’s The Division: Heartland,” and a look at the next expansion for “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” – and likely some surprises, too.

E3 2021 ends on Tuesday after the Official E3 2021 Awards Show, which starts at 7:45 p.m. ET/4:45 p.m. PT.

Diversity, inclusion top of mind

Diversity, equity and inclusion are also key themes to be discussed at this year’s E3, following the ESA’s recently announced $1 million partnership with Black Girls Code to help educate and support girls interested in technology.

“Our goal is to create STEM and STEAM opportunities for young girls and women of color, so they have the same opportunities to enter our industry,” says Pierre-Louis. “We’re also partnering on the policy front, to make sure there are opportunities for underrepresented groups in the tech and intellectual properties space.”

Speaking of which, Take-Two will host an interactive panel on June 14 at 10:15am PT/1:15pm ET, to talk about its Gerald A. Lawson Endowment fund at University of Southern California (USC), to support black and Indigenous students who wish to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees in video game design and computer science.

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Panelists will include representatives from some of Take-Two’s philanthropy partners, including USC Games, Gay Gaming Professionals, Games For Change, and Girls Make Games.

“This is an opportunity for our partners to talk about their missions, their programs, and how they’re really helping to bring about change,” explains Alan Lewis, vice president, corporate communications and public affairs at Take-Two. “It’s all about education, starting with programs for kids in elementary school, carrying through middle and high school, and ultimately to more than 400 colleges and universities in the United States that offer degrees in game design.”

“This all makes our pool of potential applicants, and at other companies, that much more diverse,” adds Lewis. “It makes us a better company and makes the content that we create better and more reflective of the audiences that are enjoying them.”

Video games bigger business than ever

Just how big is the video game industry? Bigger than movies and music – combined – according to the latest numbers.

In 2020, the U.S. video game industry ballooned to $56.9 billion in revenue, says NPD Group, compared to $32.2 billion for movies, which includes both home and theatrical releases, and $12.2 billion for the music industry.

Even more impressive, video game revenue grew 27% between 2019 and 2020, suggesting the pandemic played a significant role in its year-over-year spike.

Worldwide, video games reached more than $177 billion in revenue last year.

“Last year presented a surge more than most years because people found solace in games by finding a way to connect, and feel less isolated,” Pierre-Louis said. “A recent study out of the Oxford Internet Institute found that playing games can have a positive impact on a player’s mental wellbeing, and provided joy during times that can be really tough.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, left, and Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick pose for a photo at the NBA headquarters in New York, N.Y. on Feb. 8, 2017, during the announcement of the NBA 2K eLeague. (Photo: The Associated Press)

Zelnick mirrors Pierre-Louis’ sentiment: “We like to consume entertainment together, whether it’s watching television, going to the movies, or playing a video game with friends and family elsewhere – in that same experience with you – and talk at the same time.”

“With people sheltering at home over the past year, video games gives a unique opportunity to specifically be with other people,” Zelnick said.

On who’s playing, Pierre-Louis says more than 214 million people in the United States now play video games, almost half are women, and many are over 65.

Further challenging video game stereotypes, there are just as many people over 50 playing as there are those under 18 years of age, says Pierre-Louis, based on recent ESA research.

Follow Marc on Twitter for his “Tech Tips of the Day” posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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