What was once considered the biggest gaming event of the year, E3 has officially closed its doors for the final time as the ESA announced it will no longer be continuing the video game trade show.
The first E3 was held in 1995 and the event has been hosted annually ever since. But E3 has had a rough couple of years, having gone through several major format changes, and canceled several annual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it’s important to remember that this was once the biggest gaming event in the world, and the site where some of the biggest game news was delivered each year. Following the announcement of E3’s end, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest announcements made over the course of the trade show’s long lifespan.
The Sega Saturn (E3 1995)
E3 1995 was a memorable one. Outside of being the very first year of the trade show, it would see the announcement of several iconic games like Turok, EarthBound, and Resident Evil as well as new video game consoles, one of which was the Sega Saturn.
While the Sega Saturn had already launched in Japan to moderate success, then-CEO Thomas Kalinske revealed that the Sega Saturn would be immediately available to purchase at select retailers in North America during SEGA’s presentation. This would have been an amazing shadow drop in 2023, but without the internet creating viral moments like it does today coupled with lower supply than anticipated, this announcement didn’t quite have the effect SEGA hoped for. The Saturn went on to sell less than 10 million units worldwide.
There hasn’t been a shadow dropped console since the Saturn, but that’s likely due to the next item on our list…
The Sony PlayStation (E3 1995)
At E3 1995, Sony would forever change console gaming when it announced the very first PlayStation. Even the confidence of the announcement foreshadowed how big of an impact this would have on gaming history as a whole.
Then Sony Computer Entertainment of America President Steve Race, walked on stage to announce that the Sony PlayStation would cost $299 USD — $100 cheaper than the Sega Saturn. And that was that, Sony “won” in an era where such a concept still existed. The Sony PlayStation would go on to sell over 100 million units and the brand is now a fixture in many gamers’ homes.
The Nintendo GameCube (E3 2001)
At E3 2001, Nintendo announced its hugely anticipated successor to the Nintendo 64. The GameCube, as it was revealed, would go on to be a technical powerhouse of its generation, beating the PS2 on specs. Finally making the transition from cartridge to disc, the Nintendo GameCube was a bold step in a new direction for Nintendo, but one the company would quickly abandon.
While the announcement of the console was followed by several testimonials from developers that would be working on titles that would release on the Nintendo GameCube, the company later abandoned the tech arms race Sony and Xbox would compete in, in favor of delivering innovation at a lower price point. This was best seen with its next system, the Nintendo Wii. But for one generation, and at one E3, Nintendo chose to go head-to-head on power with its rivals.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (E3 2004)
Fans will debate where The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess ranks within the history of The Legend of Zelda series, but one thing is undeniable: The reaction to the announcement trailer for Twilight Princess was truly legendary.
For years, Nintendo fans have clamored for a realistic Zelda game following Wind Waker’s divisive aesthetic, and at E3 2004, Nintendo delivered. Look back at videos of Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto walking on stage at E3 2004 with a Master Sword and shield in hand and you’ll realize Nintendo hasn’t had a pop like that at E3 since. Nevermind that Nintendo was one of the first to transition away from live E3 stage presentations thanks to its industry-shifting Nintendo Direct announcements.
The Microsoft Kinect (E3 2010)
Originally announced in 2009 as Project Natal, Microsoft debuted a swing for the fences piece of hardware for the ages. Using motion sensor technology, the Microsoft Kinect could effectively track players’ body movement and even respond to voice commands. It showed the limits of what was possible with gaming accessories at the time, and predated future gaming peripherals like the Meta Quest and PlayStation VR and VR2. Ultimately the motion-control era would prove to be only successful for one company, Nintendo. And Xbox would show that it was about a decade too early for the party.
Final Fantasy 15 (E3 2013)
The history of Final Fantasy 15 is a long one. Originally announced as Final Fantasy Versus 13, yet another spinoff of Final Fantasy 13, the game instead went back into development. In fact, it disappeared for so long that many began to question the existence of the game entirely. However, at E3 2013 Square Enix revealed that Final Fantasy Versus 13 was very much alive, only it had reappeared as an entirely different game.
At the end of its E3 2013 trailer the Versus 13 logo was shattered, and in its place was Final Fantasy 15. This was monumental for the future of the franchise, as reception to Final Fantasy 13 was generally mixed, Final Fantasy 14 was still in its A Realm Reborn phase, and fans had placed their hopes for a serious revitalization of the series through the then-Nomura led entry. Despite what Final Fantasy 15 ended up being (which was yet another divisive entry in the Final Fantasy series) the announcement was a moment of excitement for Final Fantasy fans long-awaiting a reset for the venerable franchise.
Sony’s Used Game PSA (E3 2013)
The PS4/Xbox One Era proved pivotal as Sony would effectively gain a firm grip on the title of most popular next-gen console of that generation and set the Xbox brand back years thanks to the disastrous launch of the Xbox One. While Microsoft’s Xbox One press conference failed to impart any confidence in the Xbox 360 successor, Sony found a way to quickly kick them while they’re down by putting together a quick video of how to trade used PlayStation 4 games with friends — simply hand each other the disc. This was much simpler than the proposed always-online system of the Xbox One.
Fallout 4 (E3 2015)
Following the success of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda was on top of the world when it came to open world RPGs — despite the massive amount of bugs that seem to plague every modern Bethesda release. So when Fallout 4 was announced at E3 2015 it was met with a tangible kind of excitement. Not just because of Bethesda’s penchant for making vast, open world games players could spend hundreds of hours in, but because of its continuation of the Fallout series, which had been dormant since 2010 when the critically acclaimed Fallout: New Vegas was released. But Todd Howard saved the best for last, when he announced Fallout 4 would be released that year, the same year as it was revealed at E3. To this day there hasn’t been an ambitious release announcement quite like it.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake (E3 2015)
Perhaps one of the most, if not the most, anticipated remake of all time, Square Enix finally confirmed the existence of the often rumored remake at E3 2015. During the announcement, the crowd roared in excitement for what turned out tobe the first entry in a trilogy of Final Fantasy 7 games. Rumored for years, and for many just a fanciful dream, Final Fantasy 7 Remake was finally on the way and Square Enix was determined not to treat it like an easy cash-grab. This was a full-on remake, and as gamers later found out after release, maybe something far more ambitious than that.
Death Stranding (E3 2016)
After decades of collaboration, Hideo Kojima left Konami after the development of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and the cancellation of the highly anticipated Silent Hills. The game director regrouped, started his own studios, Kojima Productions, and at E3 2016 the developer appeared on stage to debut what would be his next major project — Death Stranding. The trailer featured Kojima’s signature, atmospheric, directorial style, while telling the audience everything and nothing about his new game. Furthermore, Death Stranding would star Norman Reedus who had been previously attached to Silent Hills. This would be a first look at Kojima Productions’ first new franchise and continue his status as an auteur among the press and public. And while it wasn’t his first appearance at the trade show — Kojima’s Metal Gear E3 reveals have obtained legendary status — it felt like a return to form for the creator and his team at Kojima Productions.
Resident Evil 2 Remake (E3 2018)
Resident Evil 2 Remake — much like the Final Fantasy 7 Remake — was heavily rumored to be in development afterCapcom effectively halted fan-led remake projects of one of the most influential horror games of all time. And at E3 2018 Resident Evil 2 Remake was finally announced to thunderous applause. Resident Evil 2 Remake would be the start of one of the most ambitious and successful remake projects of all time, and Capcom has since remade more Resident Evil games including Resident Evil 3 and Resident Evil 4. As it turns out, E3 2018 would be hugely successful for Capcom as a whole as during the Microsoft Showcase Capcom revealed a trailer for Devil May Cry 5, heralding the return of one of the greatest action franchises of all time. It was a double-whammy for Capcom that year, and definitely one die-hard fans of the horror genre and action genre wouldn’t be forgetting
Keanu Rings In Cyberpunk 2077 (E3 2019)
The last in-person E3 conference ever was poetically grand in terms of scale. Major publishers like Bethesda, Square Enix, and Ubisoft showed off major titles like Deathloop, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and Watch Dogs: Legion. But it was Microsoft who went all out that year. Alongside teasing what would become the Xbox Series X, the company brought out the newly announced star of Cyberpunk 2077, Keanu Reeves, to reveal the highly-anticipated release date. This kind of celebrity powered E3 announcement would end up being the show’s swan song as after 28 years, the popular gaming trade show announced it will not be continuing.
Biggest E3 Announcements of All Time
E3 may have come and gone, but it was without a doubt one of the most influential trade shows in the game industry. This was largely due to its status as the largest video games focused trade shows within North America at the time. Even if E3 may have been a shadow of its former self, dwindling over the course of the past five or so years (and suffering multiple data leaks that more or less destroyed trust among attendees and press), it hosted major console and video game announcements, and eventually became a place where the public could congregate over their shared love of the medium. E3 will be missed, even if its time in the sun has passed and newer events like Summer Games Fest have taken its place.