It seems like every day now, a new company announces it's pulling out of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19). It makes sense since the outbreak is hitting the tech industry at large and gaming has seen delays and esports league cancelations.
While we await more news on GDC, one of the biggest events for gaming each year, here's what we know and which companies have dropped out:
- Sony was the first high-profile company to pull out of GDC, which happened just a day after it announced it also wasn't attending PAX East.
- Facebook and Oculus Gaming announced on the same day as Sony that it also won't be attending the conference and would be encouraging its employees to not attend. Later this week, Facebook also canceled the annual F8 software developer conference due to the outbreak.
- Kojima Productions, which was set to have some talks this year about Death Stranding, the company's first big release, announced that it won't be attending. Studio head Hideo Kojima and AI programmer Eric Johnson were set to speak.
- Unity Technologies, the company behind the game engine, announced on its blog Thursday that it wouldn't be attending and won't have a physical presence. It added it'll be showcasing what it had in store in the coming weeks.
- Electronic Arts said it was canceling its "official participation" at GDC and would be "limiting attendance to other events." It didn't specify whether it was encouraging employees to not attend.
- Microsoft announced Thursday via the Game Stack blog that it won't be attending GDC. Instead, it'll be streaming a lot of its sessions and game developer "experiences" online.
- Later on Thursday, Epic Games and Unreal Engine said it wouldn't be attending via Twitter.
- Amazon announced Friday that it was withdrawing from the event and is planning to host a global online event to showcase what it had planned.
- Activision Blizzard also announced on Twitter Friday that it wouldn't be attending, citing "growing concerns related to COVID-19."
- Gearbox published a statement on Twitter saying that it would be pulling out of GDC as well and that "our employees' health and wellness is our primary concern." It also said that it would be allowing developers who worked on Borderlands 3 will give digital presentations at a later date.
This means a lot of the big booths on the show floor won't be attending, although a lot of smaller companies and indies are still set to attend. There is no word yet whether Informa, the company that owns GDC, has plans to cancel the event (Mobile World Congress was also canceled this year due to coronavirus concerns, so there's precedent). It did state on its blog that it wasn't canceling this year's event and released a set of guidelines for attendees shortly after MWC was canceled. The conference is still set to take place from March 16-20 in San Francisco.
The team notes that it is working to provide a safe environment for attendees and will be following guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the meantime, San Fransisco Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency in the city amid outbreak concerns, even though there are no confirmed coronavirus cases in the city. This basically meant that city officials could start assembling the resources for rapid response and pull staff away from nonessential duties to focus on preparation. Later that week, a confirmed case from an "unknown" source (meaning the patient hadn't traveled to affected areas and didn't come into contact with somebody who was known to have the virus) was reported in Northern California.
The San Francisco Travel Association sent a letter to GDC attendees on Tuesday following the state of emergency news to reiterate that "the risk to the general public is low" and that people who are sick to stay home. It's also worth noting that it's also working with several federal organizations and the Moscone Center on providing updated information.
The U.S. said on Tuesday that an outbreak is "inevitable."
"Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States. It's not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen," Nancy Messonnier, a director at the CDC, said. At the time of this writing, 47 countries have reported cases.
Update Feb. 28: Added that Amazon, Gearbox, and Activision Blizzard also pulled out of GDC.
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