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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

E3 2021 is days away, the latest game event to ditch its in-person presence in favor of a virtual one.

Why it matters: Most game publishers stream their big conferences already. But, in years past, the days after announcements used to be when journalists at trade shows got to do the groundwork of playing games, interviewing developers, and generally spotting trends in the wild.

  • Without an in-person presence this year, the messaging around new games will be even more controlled. Big group presentations, vs. one-on-one time, means coverage will be less personalized too.
  • A typical E3 day tends to be back-to-back meetings. This year, however, journalists are finding themselves with scarcely any appointments.

In-person events are more than just an opportunity to see games up close. They offer an irreplaceable opportunity to connect with the people who make games.

  • For journalists, this means better stories that can focus on the human element of game development.
  • But for people within games, it's also a chance to bounce ideas off each other, get inspired, and improve the work they do.

The big picture: E3 is the most important event in games that's gone digital — yet.

  • Game Developers Conference organizers held a small series of talks earlier this year, with plans to do a bigger showcase in July.
  • Other events, like BlizzCon and PAX East have been canceled for 2021.
  • Gamescom, a huge conference that takes place in Germany, canned its in-person presence for this year and will do an online-only event later this summer.

There have been other successful online events. Geoff Keighley's Summer Game Fest filled the E3 void last year. But it had the advantage of being conceived as an entirely online event, one that filled a vacuum created by the sudden impact of COVID.

  • Organizers themselves seem to be struggling. E3 begins June 12, but some conferences don't have set times yet. The official E3 account tweeted yesterday that "announcing days/times is 100% the prerogative of the MANY partners participating in this year's show."

The bottom line: The game industry is still feeling the effects of COVID — whether it's through game delays, more cancellations, or virtual events. Planning a virtual version of the year's biggest gaming event? It's just not the same.

Go deeper

Sep 9, 2021 - World

Taliban detain, beat journalists covering Kabul protests

Journalists from the Etilaatroz newspaper, Taqi Daryabi, 22, video editor, left, and Nemat Naqdi, 28, a video journalist, after being detained by the Taliban on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times

The Taliban over the last two days have detained and later released at least 14 journalists covering protests in Kabul, according to various news reports and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Why it matters: The journalists' detention undermines the Taliban's vague assurances that they have changed since the tight grip they ruled with in the 1990s, Axios' Dave Lawler reports.

1 hour ago - Sports

Robot umpires inch closer to calling MLB games

The Automated Ball-Strike system (ABS), the tech powering what's colloquially known as robo-umps, is inching ever closer to the big leagues.

Driving the news: The independent Atlantic League — which has partnered with MLB since 2019 — last week announced it was doing away with robo-umps after testing them for the past season-and-a-half.

FBI conducts "court-authorized" search of Rep. Henry Cuellar's home

Rep. Henry Cuellar. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The FBI said it conducted a "court-authorized" search on Wednesday in the area of the Texas home of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

State of play: "The FBI was present in the vicinity of Windridge Drive and Estate Drive in Laredo conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity," an FBI spokesperson told Axios, adding that they "cannot provide further comment on an ongoing investigation."

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