“It’s not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” said Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
GDC in San Francisco was expected to draw tens of thousands of game developers from around the world, including Asia. Last year’s attendance was 29,000. But since the spread of the disease, and as governments implement travel restrictions, several companies are now erring on the side of caution and have opted not to attend the annual convention.
Here are the attendees who have pulled out or scaled back, and what they’ve said about their decision to do so.
On Friday, Blizzard Entertainment announced on Twitter that it would not be attending GDC, citing “growing concerns” around coronavirus.
On Friday, Amazon announced that it would be withdrawing from the 2020 Game Developers Conference.
“Due to the continued concerns about covid-19, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Game Developer’s Conference 2020, scheduled for Mar. 16-20 in San Francisco,” Amazon wrote in a statement emailed to The Post. “We’ve reached this decision after much consideration, as the health and safety of our employees, customers, and partners are our top priority.”
Epic Games and Unreal Engine
On Thursday, Epic Games and Unreal Engine announced on Twitter that they would, “regrettably,” be pulling out of GDC.
On Thursday, Microsoft announced that it would be withdrawing from the event. Instead, the company will be hosting a digital-only event between March 16-18.
“After a close review of guidance by global health authorities and out of an abundance of caution, we’ve made the difficult decision to withdraw from participating at Game Developers Conference 2020 in San Francisco,” wrote Microsoft in a statement. “The health and safety of players, developers, employees, and our partners around the world is our top priority.”
Unity Technologies, the developer behind the Unity game engine, also withdrew from GDC on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, this year, after much thought and deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to pull out of GDC 2020,” the company shared on its official blog. “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.”
This is not a surprise, since Sony was among the first to withdraw for the same reason from its highly anticipated appearance at PAX East this week in Boston. Sony had a lot to show off this year, including marquee exclusive titles like “The Last of Us 2” and “Final Fantasy VII Remake,” along with the planned PlayStation 5.
“We felt this was the best option as the situation related to the virus and global travel restrictions are changing daily,” said Sony Interactive Entertainment in a statement to the website GamesIndustry. Biz. “We are disappointed to cancel our participation, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern. We look forward to participating in GDC in the future.”
One of the biggest publishers in the world also canceled its GDC appearance and will be “limiting” attendance for other events, a statement to PCGamer reads. EA’s stable of studios include Respawn Entertainment, the creators of Apex Legends and “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order”; Battlefield series developer DICE; and BioWare, whose live-service game Anthem is in deep hibernation for a reboot.
Facebook has positioned itself as a leader in the VR space. As stewards of the Oculus Quest VR headset, a Facebook appearance would give the social network company a chance to show off its work in the VR and AR (augmented-reality) spaces.
“We’re removing our booth footprint and are advising all employees to refrain from travel during the show,” Facebook said in a statement, adding that they’re canceling in-person sessions in favor of video announcements on its website.
Hideo Kojima, the beloved creator of the Metal Gear series, was scheduled to give a talk about his latest game, Death Stranding. A Kojima appearance was probably a big draw for many attendees, but his company also canceled attendance Monday, via an announcement on its website.
His scheduled conversation with AI programmer Eric Johnson is also canceled.
Though not a household name yet, the small Asian investment fund powers small studios with ambitious projects and powerful talent behind them. Their investments include the next game by legendary director Fumito Ueda, creator of Shadow of the Colossus, as well as one of the first PlayStation 5 games announced, Godfall.
GDC also announced that 10 companies from China won’t be attending.
These high-profile withdrawals also come on the heels of other companies pulling out of PAX East, a fan event. Both events are still scheduled to happen. GDC said that San Francisco’s Moscone Center will undergo more stringent cleansing and disinfecting practices.