Coronavirus Fears See Facebook and PlayStation Cancel GDC 2020 Attendance

The annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) is three weeks away and tends to be the first major videogame event of the year, with attendees from around the world showcasing their latest projects. This year is going to be very different, however, with Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) and Facebook/Oculus having now cancelled their appearances due to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak. 

Both companies have issued statements due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Oculus said: “We’re removing our booth footprint and advising all employees to refrain from traveling to the show.”

“We’re committed to building the future of immersive gaming alongside VR developers—and sharing that journey with the entire VR community. We still plan to share the exciting announcements we had planned for the show, but in a digital format with videos, online Q&As, and more. We’re excited to share and celebrate the accomplishments of our developer partners, and we’re happy that even more people can join in online. Stay tuned for more details!

“This was a difficult decision, but it’s the right call to make at this time. As always, we’ll have more to share in the weeks ahead.” published a statement from SIE which read: “We have made the difficult decision to cancel our participation in Game Developers Conference due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus). We felt this was the best option as the situation related to the virus and global travel restrictions are changing daily. 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.”

In addition to GDC 2020, SIE said last week that it wouldn’t be attending PAX East in Boston because of the coronavirus.

The cancellations mirror those for the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event which was supposed to take place next week in Barcelona, Spain but was eventually cancelled due to a significant number of high profile companies dropping out. At present, GDC 2020 is still going ahead with organisers saying: “We believe that, based on the strict U.S. quarantine around coronavirus and a large number of enhanced on-site measures, we are able to execute a safe and successful event for our community.” That’s not to say in the weeks to come more exhibitors won’t drop out forcing the event to cancel.

Obviously, what’s most important is everyone’s safety and minimising the spread of COVID-19. If cancelling a couple of tech shows helps in that effort then so be it. Announcements can still be made without packing lots of people in convention halls, HTC Vive was going to showcase yesterday’s Project Proton at MWC ’20. At present, the World Health Organisation puts the total number of worldwide Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases at 76,767, with 2,247 deaths recorded. Most of the cases are in China, centred around Wuhan where the outbreak occurred. So far 27 countries have confirmed cases amounting to just over 1,000.

VRFocus will continue its coverage of GDC 2020 and the implications the situation has on the XR industry.

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