GDC 2020 postponed as game companies withdraw over coronavirus concerns


This year’s Game Developers Conference has been postponed from March to summer in the wake of high-profile withdrawals by companies that had planned to attend. Sony, Microsoft, Epic Games, Unity, Activision Blizzard, Amazon, and Facebook, including Oculus, all canceled plans to attend the show, citing health concerns related to the spread of the novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19.

GDC 2020 was scheduled to be held March 16-20 in San Francisco, but organizers say the show — or rather “a GDC event” — will now be held sometime this summer. Organizers released the following statement on Friday:

After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March.

Having spent the past year preparing for the show with our advisory boards, speakers, exhibitors, and event partners, we’re genuinely upset and disappointed not to be able to host you at this time .

We want to thank all our customers and partners for their support, open discussions and encouragement. As everyone has been reminding us, great things happen when the community comes together and connects at GDC. For this reason, we fully intend to host a GDC event later in the summer. We will be working with our partners to finalize the details and will share more information about our plans in the coming weeks.

Organizers for GDC say that registered conference and expo attendees will receive full refunds for badge purchases. Organizers also say that conference speakers will be able to make their planned GDC presentations available for free online. If a speaker chooses to provide their talk in video form, it will be uploaded to the GDC YouTube channel and added to the free section of the GDC Vault.

The conference’s associated award shows, the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards, will be streamed on Twitch during the week the event would have taken place “so that our community can continue to honor [and] celebrate its best games.”

The announcement comes after both Epic Games and Unity, makers of popular video game engines and other game development tools, pulled out of the show on Thursday.

“Here at Epic we were excited about participating in GDC 2020,” Epic said on the Unreal Engine Twitter account. “Regrettably, uncertainty around health concerns has made it unviable to send our employees, and so we have made the difficult decision to withdraw attendance.”

“Unfortunately, this year, after much thought and deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to pull out of GDC 2020,” Unity CEO John Riccitiello said on the company’s website. “While we did not make this decision lightly, the current conditions with COVID-19 (also known as Novel Coronavirus) present too much risk. We take our employees’ wellbeing very seriously. We do not want any Unity employee or partner to compromise their health and safety unnecessarily.

“We’re advising all employees to refrain from traveling to GDC,” Riccitiello continued. “We will no longer have a physical presence with a booth, but will instead showcase the great GDC content we’ve been working towards online. Expect more details in the coming weeks.”

Microsoft made a similar announcement on Thursday, saying that its Game Stack team would not attend GDC 2020 “after a close review of guidance by global health authorities and out of an abundance of caution.”

“In light of this, we plan to move our presence to a digital-only event March 16-18th held on www.microsoft.com/gamestack,” Microsoft said. “This event will feature the majority of our planned game developer sessions and experiences, which will be streamed live and available on demand.”

On Friday, Activision and Blizzard issued independent statements about their decision to withdraw from GDC. Amazon and Gearbox Software also canceled planned attendance.

“The health and well-being of our teams is our highest priority, and due to growing concerns related to COVID-19, Activision is asking employees not to attend this year’s Game Developers Conference as we continue to monitor the situation,” the company said on Twitter. “This was not an easy decision to make, as the conference is and has always been an important event for our developers. We look forward to participating in the future.”

“Blizzard will no longer attend this year’s [GDC] due to growing concerns related to COVID-19,” the developer added. “The health and well-being of our teams is our highest priority.”

In recent weeks, studios like Death Stranding developer Kojima Productions and Sony Interactive Entertainment canceled plans to attend GDC, even as show organizers reassured attendees the event would “[move] forward as planned.”

More than 29,000 game development professionals attended GDC in 2019, according to organizers.

With the novel coronavirus spreading across the globe, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning Americans to prepare for an outbreak in the States. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease director Dr. Nancy Messonnier told the press there’s no telling whether an outbreak would be mild or severe, but that Americans should “prepare for the expectation that this might be bad” — because an outbreak is “inevitable.”

This week, health officials in Northern California confirmed a case of COVID-19 in a woman who had “no known link to others with the illness,” the Washington Post reported.

Experts suggest it’s not possible to contain the virus, but immediate risk for Americans is still low. According to a report in The Atlantic, researchers and scientists predict that “40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19,” but many will simply see “mild disease,” or have no symptoms at all — similar to the regular flu.

More than 80,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, many of which remain in the Hubei province of China, where the virus is believed to have originated. South Korea has seen an increase in patients with COVID-19, up to 977. A cruise ship docked in Japan, the Diamond Princess, housed 691 confirmed cases. Italy has more than 300 people infected with the virus, while Japan and Iran’s numbers likewise continue to rise. The virus has spread to more than 30 countries.





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