The big picture: As of late due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) there have been quite a few cancellations impacting the tech and gaming world. Sony, Google, EA, Kojima Productions and Unity have all revealed that they are skipping the Game Developers Conference (GDC) because of concerns about coronaviruses. Microsoft and Epic are the latest to skip GDC among fears about the virus. With so many firms pulling out, that could also cause GDC to be cancelled.
“We made the difficult decision to withdraw from attendance at the Game Developers Conference 2020 in San Francisco after a near review of guidelines by global health authorities and out of an abundance of caution,” Microsoft wrote in their Game Stack blog. “The health and safety of players, developers, employees and our partners all over the world is our top priority, particularly as the world is experiencing the coronavirus-related public health risks (COVID-19).”
Instead of attending the event physically, Microsoft is conducting a digital-only event March 16-18th instead. The organization will participate in streaming game developer meetings, panel discussions, hardware discussions with Xbox Series X, and talks with Project xCloud. Microsoft typically holds a GDC ID@Xbox event to showcase indie developers and games but the company hasn’t stated if that’s cancelled either.
Epic has likewise refused to attend GDC. As the company behind the hugely popular Unreal Engine, Fortnite and the Epic Games Store will certainly feel their absence. Epic was set to hold multiple panels along with their annual report on “Culture of Unreal.” This briefing usually yields major announcements regarding the Unreal Engine’s future.
The coronavirus has infected more than 82,200 people and claimed 2,804 lives worldwide, mostly in mainland China, according to the World Health Organization. Although the United States has approximately 60 confirmed cases, several U.S. cities such as San Francisco have already declared a state of emergency to prepare for a possible epidemic.
Mobile World Congress was canceled for the first time in its history, due to similar issues. With so many businesses dropping out of GDC, one has to wonder if it’s going to continue going forward. If the virus continues to spread, it may threaten to cancel this year’s other major events including Google I / O, Apple’s WWDC, and perhaps even the Olympics in Tokyo.