E3 is returning this year as the Electronic Entertainment Experience. The Entertainment Software Association announced today that is holding the annual E3 event as a digital showcase from June 12 through June 15. And it even managed to snag a few major partners for the festivities.

Nintendo, Xbox, Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros., and Koch Media will all show some sort of content as part of E3. But what will those media presentations look like? And does this mean that E3 is back for good? Well, let’s talk about what you can expect from the event.

Of course, E3 2021 does not have an in-person component. The ESA is planning to bring that back in 2022. For now, the company is looking to remain all-virtual. And reports from Video Game Chronicle and others suggest the organization had a difficult time figuring out what that should look like.

The fundamental challenge for the ESA was always about value. What value does the group bring, and can it charge companies for providing that value? The trade alliance isn’t providing answers to these questions. But it’s likely safe to assume that the ESA has minimal oversight into how participating companies will present their content.

E3 2021 has a website and an app — and that’s about it. Nintendo, Microsoft, and the rest will likely handle all of the logistics and production beyond that, including broadcasting to external platforms that bypass E3 entirely.

And many companies were planning to hold their summer media presentations during the second week of June with or without the E3 branding, according to a source familiar with the plans.

Is E3 cleaning up the summer game mess?

One of the reasons so many gaming fans long for the return of E3 is because of 2020. The pandemic led to the ESA canceling the event last year, and nothing really took its place. Instead, we had multiple substitutes that all lacked the comprehensive excitement that E3 is known for. And worst of all, those events trickled out slowly over the summer and into the early fall.

So does a centralized, condensed E3 mean the end of the summer game mess? At least partially.

A strong E3 with Nintendo, Xbox, and Konami means that we should at least hear about a number of big games from well-known publishers. Nintendo didn’t have a summer Direct at all last year. And Microsoft spread out its Xbox announcements across multiple events, and maybe of those were delayed for weeks at a time.

This year, assuming we do not encounter another global crisis by June, Nintendo will return with another full-scale general Direct showcase. Microsoft, meanwhile, will package together Xbox and Bethesda into a back-to-back showcase with games like Halo and potentially a new Forza and Bethesda’s spacefaring role-playing adventure Starfield.

With big showcases like those, gamers should know a lot more about what the rest of the year will look like than they did during summer 2020.

But that doesn’t mean the mess is going away.

Digital events are easier to plan and livestream, so expect a lot of companies to continue trying to hold their own. But more major publishers may start holding their own events. Electronic Arts and PlayStation will each have something, but also expect a Square Enix Presents, a Bandai Namco Next, and more. But don’t hold your breath that everything will happen around the week of E3.

In other words, the mess will live on as well.

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