Summer Game Fest fills the hole left behind by E3, but it needs to tell a tighter story

Summer Game Fest
(Image credit: Summer Game Fest)

There's always been a certain kind of magic about the E3 season. I may not be able to speak to the experience of actually going in-person, but watching the showcases from home was always as exciting to me. As a fan, nothing beats the thrill of new game reveals, fresh looks at some of the biggest upcoming releases, or developers taking to the stage to debut what they've been working on. But, as the past few years have shown, the big summer gaming season is changing. 

The E3 trade show as it once was has yet to make a comeback since its initial cancellation amid the global pandemic. After it was once again called off this year, we've started to see leading industry publishers like Sony and Nintendo doing separate dedicated showcases. But there's still one event that goes some way to keeping the spirit of E3 alive: The Summer Game Fest. As a digital "cross-industry" festival, it's a different beast altogether, but it does help fill the gap that E3 left behind. At its heart is a live presentation packed with world premieres and updates on games across all platforms from a variety of studios, with some developer interviews mixed in. 

Despite all of this, part of me misses what once was. While the Summer Game Fest was never going to be  a one-to-one replacement for E3, I still have high hopes for the 2023 event in the former's absence. And if the showcase last year is anything to go by, Summer Game Fest needs to have a bit more variety and tell a tighter story of what we can expect from the world of games in the future to win me over. 

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E3 2023 schedule

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Keep track of all of the upcoming events with our E3 2023 schedule guide. 

I don't think I'm alone in missing what the E3 season used to be. The big event used to be the place you'd look to see and hear about all of the new games in the works. It felt, in some ways, like it was painting a picture of the gaming landscape that year. That's not to say E3 was always good - it's certainly had its fair share of ups and downs over the years, with some showcase lineups being far stronger than others - but it was always the one destination we could rely on to map out some releases to watch out for, or see more of games that we so eagerly awaited. Everyone also always has a show that they remember for one reason or another, like the memorable reveal of God of War at the Sony press conference with a live orchestra. With showcases now going digital, it's hard to say whether special moments like those will come around again. 

Truth be told, I remember the Day of the Devs stream last year far more than I do the Summer Game Fest showcase, and that's thanks to the wide selection of standout indie gems accompanied by developer introductions that had so much personality. Sure, that could just speak to what my heart jumps for, but everything shown at the Summer Game Fest 2022 lacked the same kind of buzz or excitement, with a lot of horror experiences and shooters and some smaller trailers wedged in between. It didn't feel like it really showed us a broader picture of the future of games that I've come to expect from the season. 

Of course, that's not to sound dismissive of anything that was shown, but it failed to hold my attention in the same way as past showcases, or capture the same kind of magic I think so many of us are still holding out for with the tides of E3 dying down. It's also important to acknowledge and take into account that the games industry was and still is being affected by the impact of the global pandemic, which saw a series of game delays and pushbacks. 

It's understandable, then, that this would be reflected on what could and was shown during the summer last year, and why the showcase also felt a little lacklustre compared to years past. With all that said, it's great to see the Summer Game Fest bring developers on stage to talk about the games they're working on directly, which is something that I hope continues no matter what shape or form the big showcases take going into the future. 

I don't think the Summer Game Fest set out to be a replacement for E3, but rather an alternative. A place where we could continue to celebrate and get excited about the games coming our way. While the last showcase might not have wowed me, I still appreciate what it's trying to do and I'm looking forward to seeing what 2023 has to offer. If nothing else, I'm thankful we still have a summer event on the calendar, and who knows, maybe this could be a big year. 

Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming Xbox Games Showcase 2023.

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.