Opinion: Why Doesn’t Esports Have a Bigger Presence at E3?

Now in its 25th year, E3—or the Electronic Entertainment Expo—is considered by many to be the mecca of videogaming. Even as some publishers (Sony and Electronic Arts , for example) have pulled out of the annual convention to do their own thing, E3 still packs in an incredible number of game and hardware announcements across the span of just a few days.

E3 has broad name recognition, but while it’s known as one of the year’s ultimate gaming events, it’s hardly the ultimate esports event. While there were competitions and other esports-related events during E3 this year, esports was a tiny part of what is routinely a monumental week for the videogame industry.

Here’s an overview of esports-related events and announcements that happened at E3 2019 last week, and some perspective on why we haven’t seen more overlap between esports and E3.

E3 2019’s Esports Events

E3 week has gradually expanded with new conferences and events over the years, beginning earlier and earlier before the official show floor days. Nintendo kicked things off this time around on Saturday, June 8 with the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate  World Championship 2019 and Splatoon 2  World Championship 2019, as well as a Super Mario Maker 2 Invitational 2019. As with other Nintendo-run esports events, no cash prizes were awarded. It was all about bragging rights, a trophy, and a trip to Los Angeles to compete for gaming glory.

Following Ubisoft’s press conference on Monday, June 10, the company broadcasted a Twitch Rivals x Rainbow Six Siege Celebrity Showdown match. The partnership with Twitch saw two popular musicians—Faheem “T-Pain” Najm and Miles “Lil Yachty” McCollum—captain opposing teams comprised of notable streamers, with a $100K USD total prize pool split between the streamers and charity.

During the actual E3 show floor days from June 11-13, the Entertainment Software Association and Greenlit Content (acquired last week by Rogue  parent company, ReKTGlobal ) co-produced the E3 Esports Zone 2019 area. The space featured multiple competitions, including a PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS  pro-am tournament with Team Liquid  players, as well as a Fortnite “free play” session with NBA player Jeremy Lin’s Team J.Storm squad. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and NBA 2K19  competitions also took place.

The E3 Esports Zone 2019 also had a content stage with a packed schedule of more than 55 gaming-related interviews, demos, and discussions—but only a few of them had a clear esports tie. That included an interview with esports commentator Paul “Redeye” Chaloner, for example, and an “Esports Culture and Community” discussion by caster Jake Kulinski.

Elsewhere at the show, the ESA’s “We Are” initiative sought to increase diversity in the gaming industry, and featured a number of panel discussions that included esports and streaming-centric topics. Representatives from Cloud9 and Gen.G were panelists for “How to Get a Professional Sponsorship as an Esports Player and Content Creator,” for example, while a Riot Games employee was part of the “Championing Diverse Voices in Video Games” panel.


Pictured: Madden NFL 20. Credit: EA Sports

All told, it was arguably the strongest esports showing to date at E3, representing a diverse mix of competition and behind-the-scenes industry insight. However, these efforts were overshadowed by E3’s bread and butter: the bevy of announcements and game reveal events.

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