Coronavirus fears prompt Sony and Facebook to pull out of GDC

21 Feb 2020383 Views

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San Francisco, where the Game Developers Conference is set to be held. Image: © Sergey Novikov/Stock.adobe.com

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The annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco appears to be the next major conference disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, as Sony and Facebook announce that they will no longer be attending.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) was supposed to begin in Barcelona on Monday 24 February, but due to concerns raised about the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many companies pulled out of the massive exhibition.

After the withdrawal of major companies such as Amazon, BT, LG, Sony, Nvidia and Intel, MWC organisers decided to cancel this year’s event, which had been set to attract 100,000 visitors.

Now, it looks like the next major conference to be impacted by the coronavirus outbreak will be the Game Developers Conference (GDC), which is set to take place in San Francisco from 16 to 20 March.

Concerns about COVID-19

GDC, which champions game developers and the advancement of their craft, released a statement on Thursday (20 February), informing attendees that extra precautions will be taken at this year’s event.

The organisers of GDC wrote: “We believe that, based on the strict US quarantine around coronavirus and a large number of our enhanced on-site measures, we are able to execute a safe and successful event for our community. Locally, the department of health for both the state of California and the city of San Francisco support the convening of public events.

“We are also continuing to follow the latest CDC and WHO guidance, following in the footsteps of other large international events that are taking place successfully at the Moscone Center.”

The statement echoes that of MWC’s initial comments assuring attendees that the Barcelona-based event would go ahead with an increased focus on health and safety. Similarly to what happened with MWC, major companies began to pull out of the event following the publication of the statement.

Additionally, China-based exhibitors have had to cancel their presence at GDC or send North American staff to run their booths at the conference. According to GDC, this has impacted around 10 of the 550 companies exhibiting at GDC 2020.

Sony and Facebook drop out

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Sony announced that it will not be attending this year’s GDC.

A spokesperson from Sony Interactive Entertainment said: “We have made the difficult decision to cancel our participation in Game Developers Conference due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19. 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.”

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Sony has also dropped out of PAX East, an annual gaming festival in Boston. At this event, Sony was due to preview major upcoming games such as The Last of Us Part II and the remaster of Final Fantasy VII.

Gaming enthusiasts were also excited to learn more about the upcoming PlayStation 5, which is due to be released before the end of the year, though Sony has released few details on the next generation console so far.

Social media giant Facebook also announced that it would be stepping back from this year’s GDC, but promised to offer announcements through digital formats over the duration of the conference.

A spokesperson for Facebook said: “Out of concern for the health and safety of our employees, our dev partners, and the GDC community, Facebook will not be attending this year’s Game Developers Conference due to the evolving public health risks related to COVID-19.

“We still plan to share the exciting announcements we had planned for the show through videos, online Q&As, and more, and will plan to host GDC partner meetings remotely in the coming weeks. We continue to collaborate with UBAM, GDC’s parent company and our partners, and thank them for their efforts.”

The spread of COVID-19

Since the virus began making headlines in January, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 has risen from 282 on 20 January, to more than 75,000 on 20 February. In that time, the disease has spread from four countries to more than two dozen.

In just a day, the number of cases in South Korea has doubled in a single day to 204 confirmed infections. These infections are thought to be connected to a single church.

So far, 2,249 deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported, while at least 18,835 recoveries have been reported.

Aside from the impact that the virus has had on public health, it is also expected to take a significant toll on the global tech industry, as much of the world relies heavily on Chinese manufacturing and components.

Market analysts are predicting that the outbreak could result in a five-year low in smartphone production.

Companies such as Apple an Xiaomi have publicly announced that their results for this quarter would be affected by the epidemic, while it is thought that Samsung could benefit from the crisis.

According to research from TrendForce, TV shipments are expected to drop by 4.5pc, video game console shipments could drop by 10.1pc and smart watch shipments could drop by 16pc. Smartphone shipments are estimated to drop by 10.4pc, laptop shipments are expected to drop by 12.3pc and smart speakers could drop by 12.1pc.

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com