The summer season of videogame conferences is slowly approaching, and some of the big ones, including GDC and PAX East, are returning to in-person events in what we all hope will prove to be a post-Covid world. (For wealthy Western nations, at least.) But one big show will not be coming back as usual.
“We love EA Play Live as it’s our way of connecting with our players and sharing what’s new with all of you,” an Electronic Arts rep told IGN. “However, this year things aren’t lining up to show you everything on one date. We have exciting things happening at our world-class studios and this year we’ll reveal much more about these projects when the time is right for each of them. We look forward to spending time with you throughout the year!”
EA Play Live presentations are traditionally one of the big pre-E3 press events, held alongside similar shows from other major publishers like Microsoft, Bethesda, Ubisoft, Square Enix, Nintendo, and Devolver Digital. That relationship was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, however, which forced the cancellation of E3 2020 and resulted in various livestreamed events from individual publishers instead. The distance remained in 2021: E3 returned as an online-exclusive event that ran from June 12-15, while the also-digital EA Play Live took place more than a month later, on July 22.
It’s not as if Electronic Arts doesn’t have interesting things going on. Respawn has no fewer than three Star Wars games in the works, Dead Space is being rebooted, and Dragon Age 4 and a new, hopefully less catastrophic Mass Effect are in development. But it may not be ready to show them all off, at least not in a big, unified show—and EA may have decided that smaller, more frequent online events dedicated to individual games, as it’s been doing with Dead Space, is the better way to go.
There’s also uncertainty about the future of E3 itself, which could have contributed to EA’s decision. The Entertainment Software Association scrapped its plan for a return to an in-person E3 in January, blaming “the ongoing health risks surrounding Covid-19.” But industry analyst Mike Futter described that rationale as “spin” and said the real challenge facing E3 is one of relevance: “Publishers have learned they don’t need to pay exorbitant rates to the ESA to reach press and consumers.”
I’ve reached out to EA for more information and will update if I receive a reply.