What shape will the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) take later this year, when it’s scheduled to land in Los Angeles starting June 9? That question appears to be more complicated with every month that passes, starting with this week’s surprise announcement that the show just lost its latest creative directors.
iam8bit, a gaming merchandise and events company that we’ve written about at Ars in the past, announced on Thursday that it will no longer serve as E3’s creative director. The Twitter post cited “mixed emotions” and claimed that the company had planned “what was to be an evolutionary E3 2020 floor experience.” After saying “it was a dream” to work on E3, the post concluded by “wish[ing] the organizers the best of luck.”
Curiously, this resignation is the first we’ve heard that iam8bit was working in a “creative director” capacity for E3. Only five weeks ago, the company’s involvement with E3 was announced by its showrunners at the Electronic Software Association (ESA) in a much vaguer manner. “We’re collaborating with industry insiders and new creative partners, including the tastemakers at iam8bit, to reinvigorate the show and, frankly, to shake things up,” the ESA’s January 30 statement said.
Two weeks after that statement was issued, journalist and events promoter Geoff Keighley announced he would no longer organize the E3 Live component of the annual expo. He cited the ESA’s E3-related announcement as one reason for his decision.
The ESA’s January announcement didn’t mention one of the biggest pieces of E3-related news from earlier that month: Sony’s decision to skip E3 for its second year in a row. Instead, it emphasized “the many exhibitors committed to the show,” and later in February, it published a list of publishers with plans to take part in E3 2020: Xbox, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Sega, Capcom, Square Enix, Take-Two, Bandai Namco, and Warner Bros., “among others.”
But in the wake of last week’s Game Developers Conference postponement, many of those publishers showed how quickly their support for a major event can dry up in the face of public health issues like the spread of COVID-19. (Before GDC was formally canceled, many of its largest showcasing publishers and studios had individually bowed out of attendance.) To that end, the ESA issued a statement on Wednesday of this week to say it “continues to plan for a safe and successful E3,” all while laying out plans for following WHO and CDC guidelines about the outbreak.
Neither the ESA or iam8bit has replied to Ars Technica’s questions about today’s announcement as of press time.
Update, 7:48 p.m.: An ESA representative declined to answer Ars Technica’s specific questions, particularly whether iam8bit indeed held a proper “creative director” role for E3. Instead, the ESA forwarded the following statement:
We can confirm that iam8bit is no longer part of the inter-agency group working on E3 2020. We greatly value their passion for the video game industry and the contributions they brought toward our vision for this year’s show. We have an innovative and experienced team in place including Endeavor’s creative agency 160over90, event innovators Mat+Lo, and longtime E3 partners GES, Dolaher Events, and Double Forte—all collaborating to bring to life an exciting and authentic experience for fans, the media and the industry.
When pressed about Mat+Lo, the only listed agency we could not immediately identify, the ESA forwarded a link and described the company as a “hot new agency that just launched.”