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E3 2021 going all-digital — dates, free tickets and everything you need to know

E3 2021
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The industry had high hopes for E3 2021. After E3 2020’s unfortunate cancellation, developers and gamers of all stripes held fast to the belief that E3 2021 would take place as planned, if only the global public health crisis would abate a little.

Well, the good news is that the public health situation is much better now than it was last year. But the bad news is that it still wouldn’t be safe to hold a huge public expo in June this year. As such, E3 2021 will take place entirely online.

This is a bit of a mixed blessing. While online events lack the energy and cachet of their real-world counterparts, they also allow E3 to open its doors to the general public. For the first time ever, E3 2021 will be absolutely free, and open to anyone who wants to attend – not just the industry, the press and a few lucky members of the general public.

E3 2021 dates

First things first: E3 2021 will begin on June 12, and end on June 15. E3 promises that “virtual streams and announcements [will be] available online through all major video platforms as well as through the [E3 website] portal and supporting mobile app.” That’s straightforward enough. If you want to watch E3 content, just tune into your usual video source starting on June 12. You’ll be able to find coverage.

However, for members of the press, E3 actually begins on June 7, with “Pre-E3 Media days.” This is pretty similar to how the in-person show works, and will probably involve private briefings or small presentations specifically for media personnel. While the general public won’t be able to attend these sessions, E3 has historically welcomed smaller press outfits with open arms. Independent content creators should keep an ear out for more info.

E3 2021 free tickets

To say that E3 2021 has “free tickets” is not entirely accurate, since you won’t need a “ticket” at all to attend this year. Instead, you’ll be able to tune in on your video platform of choice, or through the online portal at the official E3 website. (That’s https://e3expo.com/, if you’d like to bookmark it now.)

E3 promises “major exhibitor showcases,” “live press conferences,” “unexpected reveals,” “high-profile hosts” and “charitable initiatives,” among other things. But for the most part, it seems like E3 2021 will be a series of video broadcasts and livestreams from both major companies and personalities within the gaming industry.

“The digitally reimagined E3 2021 will recapture the magic of the past 20+ years while creating an innovative, interactive online experience that will pave the way for more in 2022 and beyond,” the E3 website states.

E3 2021 exhibitors

Some good news: E3 2021 already has most of the biggest names in the industry signed on. Fans can expect to hear from Nintendo, Xbox, Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, Take-Two, Warner Brothers and Deep Silver. Granted, we’re not guaranteed to hear a bombshell announcement from any of the companies listed, but if past shows are any indication, publishers don’t show up to E3 without at least one big game in tow.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.