E3 2022 to be held virtually amid Covid-19 surge in US

The operator of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the major event for video games and other consumer technology, has announced that it will not be held in-person this year, amid concerns around surges in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations.

E3 is still months away, usually taking place at California’s Los Angeles Convention Centre in June and attracting more than 50,000 industry and public delegates.

It is, of course, impossible to predict the state of the pandemic at that time given the many factors affecting the spread and severity of the novel coronavirus. However, as rapid spread of the Omicron variant pushes the rolling seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases in the US above 500,000 this week, accompanied by a surge in hospitalisations, event organisers are practicing caution and making early calls to scale down, postpone, or digitise upcoming events.

The latest announcement adds to a list of tentpole events being disrupted by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Organisers of the Grammy Awards and the Sundance Film Festival have adjusted their plans due to Covid-19 caution, while the top tech trade show CES has attracted some criticism for going ahead in-person in Las Vegas with concerns it could prove a 'superspreader' event.

“Due to the ongoing health risks surrounding Covid-19 and its potential impact on the safety of exhibitors and attendees, E3 will not be held in-person in 2022,” E3 operator the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said in a statement to VentureBeat, which was first to report the announcement. “We are nonetheless excited about the future of E3 and look forward to announcing more details soon.”

This marks the third year in a row that E3 will have replaced its in-person event for a virtual one due to the pandemic. The ESA had originally planned to restore E3 as an in-person event in 2022, having announced its plan in April 2021 when it officially took its 2021 event online.

The Game Developers Conference, another major video gaming event, plans to go ahead with its in-person event scheduled for late March.

The last-minute cancellation of Mobile World Congress – the world’s largest mobile tech show, typically drawing 100,000 visitors to Barcelona – in February 2020 was a significant moment in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, demonstrating the unfeasibility of large in-person events at that time. The show was called off after an exodus of electronics companies including Amazon, Facebook, Intel, Sony, LG, Cisco, Ericsson, BT, AT&T, and Vodafone.

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