[Updated] ESA Says E3 2021 Will Be a "Free Event"

Published: April 1, 2021 2:52 PM /


E3 2021 paywall cover

Update (04/01/21, 3:12 PM) – The ESA has refuted reports of E3 2021 potentially being behind a paywall released earlier today.

"E3’s 2021 digital show is a free event for all attendees, read a tweet on thje official E3 account. "We’re excited to fill you in on all the real news for the event very soon."


Andy Robinson — the author of the original VGC article on the subject — immediately responded to the above tweet.

"I received this statement from The ESA moments ago, but it's still yet to respond to my request to rule out paywall elements," he said on Twitter, quote-tweeting the ESA's tweet. "Also, isn't it annoying when you hold a story for comment and then this happens?"

Update #2 (04/01/21, 5:50 PM) – As Rösti points out on ResetEra, the Board of Los Angeles Convention and Tourism Development is holding a meeting on April 7, 2021, and has published an information packet in advance of that meeting. That information package has the following slice of information about E3 2021:

Will be mostly digital event. Working with production team on broadcast options at LA Live/LACC. Working on 2022 & 2023 license.

The report also mentions that E3 has booked 27,609 "room nights" for the event. A room night is a measurement of one room at a hotel being occupied for one night; for example, 10 rooms booked for 2 days each would be 20 room nights.

Additionally, the ESA has provided a statement to VGC that expressly denies the claims made by VGC's sources: E3 2021 will not be a paid event in any capacity.

"I can confirm on behalf of the ESA that there will be no elements at E3 2021 that will be behind a paid-for pass or paywall." – ESA Spokesman

Our original story continues below.


E3 2021 is still very much on the way, although this flagship gaming show is reportedly making a strange choice to lock a portion of the show behind a paywall.

Earlier this month, it was reported that E3 2021 would be going forward as an all-digital show. Although the lack of logistical challenges for an in-person event should save the organization some work, it still needs to figure out how to set up the show in an interesting way. Now, VGC's Andy Robinson reports that E3 is considering putting some of the show behind a paywall — and that might include the ability to play demos through GeForce Now.


E3 2021 paywall slice

E3 2021 Reportedly Working on GeForce Now Partnership

Part of E3's plans for its all-digital show is apparently a partnership with GeForce Now to deliver playable game demos to people at home, although this hasn't been set in stone just yet according to VGC's article. However, it looks like it is considering locking a portion of this content behind a fee. Unsurprisingly, that is not a popular decision with some publishers.

"One source told me that, at one point, The ESA was considering charging consumers $35 for 'premium' access," said Andy Robinson on Twitter, author of the VGC article. "However, the organisation has told at least one publisher I spoke to that it's willing to scrap the proposal, following negative feedback."

"E3 2021 still depends on publisher support, and while I think it will get it in some small form, the focus will likely still be on independent publisher events this year," he added. "The cost is high, ROI unproven, and companies can ultimately spend on their own shows."

It's certainly understandable that E3 would want to maximize its revenue, but charging a premium fee after more than a year of completely free digital shows is probably not the best idea. The biggest exception to the free digital shows rule was traditionally Blizzard Entertainment's Blizzcon event, but even this year's event was totally free for anyone to watch, breaking with a years-long tradition of locking it behind a paywall.


Considering the success that publishers and developers have had with their own shows, we genuinely have no idea what this year's E3 event is going to look like in terms of presentations from developers and publishers. We probably won't hear much from the organization itself until we're closer to the show actually launching, especially considering that negotiations are still ongoing.

Would you pay any fee to experience E3 2021 content? Do you think the show will actually go forward this year? Let us know in the comments below!



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