E3 2021 Reportedly Paywalling Certain Digital Events

E3 2021's digital event may place some of its content behind a paywall.
E3 2021's digital event may place some of its content behind a paywall. / Christian Petersen/Getty Images

E3 2021 is considering putting part of its digital showcase behind a paywall, VGC reports. The ESA has since stated E3 2021 would be "a free event for all attendees."

E3 organizer the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has been planning a digital event for summer 2021 for a while now. The event will be rebranded as the Electronic Entertainment Experience (rather than "expo") and will run for a week starting June 13, per VGC.

The centerpiece of E3 2021 could be on-demand game demos streamed via the cloud. The ESA aims to partner with Nvidia to use its GeForce Now platform to power the demos. Exhibitors would then be able to make their demos available to the general public, to press, or to business people.

E3 2021 week will start with three days of broadcast content followed by a consumer experience built around a bespoke E3 app. Plans VGC reviewed indicate the app could include "virtual booths" with content announced during the show, merchandise stores, and demos.

The ESA has discussed charging consumers for a paid access pass that would include the on-demand demos or other premium access features. One major games company has criticized the plan, per VGC, and the ESA appears ready to backtrack on the idea. Regardless of whether a paid access pass is implemented, the ESA confirmed to VGC a free experience would also be available.

"E3's 2021 digital show is a free event for all attendees," the organizer wrote on Twitter. "We're excited to fill you in on all the real news for the event very soon."

The ESA hopes to include several keynote sessions from games partners, which will be broadcast from a live stage in Los Angeles, plus an awards show, preview night, and an option for companies to schedule meetings with media and business users via the E3 app.

The pressure has been on for the ESA to reinvent E3 since before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Major publishers from EA to Activision have backed out of the event in favor of their own in-house broadcasts, and VGC reports several publishers will share some of their content at E3, but would reserve their main reveals for their own events.