After the coronavirus canceled E3, video game industry plots Summer Game Fest

Summer Game Fest
Summer Game Fest will be an online-only festival of video game hype.
(Summer Game Fest)

Microsoft, Sony, Electronic Arts, Bethesda and Activision are among the publishers who will participate in the so-called Summer Game Fest, a digital-only, multimonth event designed to promote current and upcoming game content.

Spearheaded by Geoff Keighley, the architect behind the annual Game Awards, Summer Game Fest will aim to somewhat replicate the teaser-heavy game events that accompany the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), typically held each June in downtown Los Angeles.

Yet with E3 canceled due to concerns around the spread of the coronavirus, Summer Game Fest will also aim to act as something of a hub for all of this summer’s announcements, which were highly anticipated among game fans due to new consoles from Sony and Microsoft on the horizon. It’s Keighley’s hope to move beyond just teasers and trailers of upcoming games to include demos, when possible.

“Our goal is to have a fully functioning digital pipeline for demos, gameplay across all platforms,” says Keighley, “so we can give fans access to more to play — that means demos, but also more in-game events, live game launches and so on.”

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Summer Game Fest begins this month and will continue through August. On May 7 at 8 a.m. Pacific time, Microsoft will broadcast a look at its Xbox Series X, its successor to the Xbox One that is due later this year. While Microsoft has already mentioned that a new “Halo” game will be coming to the platform, the tech giant promises more reveals next week. Microsoft’s Xbox head Phil Spencer, in a recent interview with CNBC, noted that he didn’t anticipate production concerns due to the coronavirus crisis, but did note some games may be behind schedule due to work-from-home constraints.

Other publishers and developers participating in the Summer Game Fest include 2K, Activision Publishing, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Blizzard Entertainment, Bungie, CD Projekt Red, Digital Extremes, Private Division, Riot Games, Steam, Square Enix and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Programming will air across multiple channels, including Facebook, Mixer, Twitch, Twitter and YouTube.

Keighley will work closely on Summer Game Fest events with Echo Park’s Iam8bit, which operates a video game art gallery, runs a record label and also creates game-focused marketing events, such as a carnival that accompanied a “Fortnite” competition at the Forum. Keighley says he will lean heavily on Iam8bit’s expertise in the indie space to make sure Summer Game Fest touches on more than just high-profile releases.

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Summer Game Fest is one of a few happenings trying to take the place typically held by E3, as gaming news sites IGN and Gamespot are plotting events that begin in June.

E3 is the gaming industry’s largest event in North America, and typically brings more than 65,000 fans and industry professionals to the Los Angeles Convention Center and surrounding events every summer. This year’s E3 was originally scheduled for June 9-11.

Presented by trade body the Electronic Software Assn., the group said it was exploring options for its own digital events. Prior to E3’s cancellation, Keighley and Iam8bit had announced that they were withdrawing their E3 participation.