gdc-2019-sony-playstation-0017

Sony had been expected to unveil details on its upcoming PlayStation 5 during GDC.


James Martin/CNET

Following the cancellations of both Mobile World Congress 2020 and Facebook’s F8 developers conference because of concerns about the coronavirus, the future of Game Developers Conference 2020 is in doubt. Studios are dropping out in droves, with the latest announcements coming from Microsoft and Epic Games.

GDC last week said it’d be “able to execute a safe and successful event” thanks to the US quarantine around coronavirus, as well as it putting in place “a large number of enhanced on-site measures.” GDC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment with updates.

*GDC, the show where publishers and developers preview new gaming technologies, is currently set for March 16-20 in San Francisco. But in light of the spread of the deadly coronavirus from Wuhan, China, to other parts of Asia, as well as the US, Australia, Europe, the UK and the Middle East, studios are choosing not to have a presence at GDC. 

Coronavirus deaths now total more than 2,800, with over 82,000 cases confirmed.

Microsoft

Microsoft said Thursday it’s dropping out of GDC because “the health and safety of players, developers, employees and our partners around the world is our top priority.”

Instead, Microsoft will hold an online event on March 16-18. It’ll include sessions on cloud gaming; panel discussions on game development, inclusive game design, online gaming, its new hardware and game streaming; and “a behind-the-scenes look” at work on Minecraft and Gears of War.

Microsoft had been expected to unveil more details on its new console, the Xbox Series X, at GDC.

Epic Games

Epic Games tweeted its decision Thursday, saying it’ll instead make its planned announcements “through other channels.”

“Here at Epic we were excited about participating in GDC 2020,” the studio tweeted. “Regrettably, uncertainty around health concerns has made it unviable to send our employees.”

Unity

Unity’s decision also came Thursday. In a blog post, Unity said the current conditions of the spread of the coronavirus “present too much risk” to send anyone to San Francisco.

“We’re advising all employees to refrain from traveling to GDC. 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,” Unity said. It will announce details of its online announcements at a later date.

Sony was one of the earlier studios to drop out of GDC, with the PlayStation maker announcing its decision on Feb. 20 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,” Sony said in an emailed statement.

Sony had been expected to unveil details on its upcoming PlayStation 5 during GDC.

Facebook/Oculus

Facebook’s decision was also announced Feb. 20, with the Oculus owner saying “the health of our employees and the wider games community comes before anything else.”

Facebook says it’ll host GDC partner meetings remotely over the next few weeks, and instead make announcements slated for GDC through videos and online news hits on its Facebook Gaming developer website.

Electronic Arts pulled out of the conference earlier this week, saying it is restricting nonessential travel by employees due to the coronavirus.

“We are also cancelling our official participation at GDC and limiting attendance to other events,” EA told PC Gamer in a statement.

EA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kojima

Kojima Productions dropped out of GDC 2020 on Feb. 24, calling it a “difficult decision.”

Studio founder Hideo Kojima had been scheduled to give an hourlong talk on the design philosophy of hit game Death Stranding, according to CNET sister site GameSpot.

Originally published Feb. 27, 12 p.m. PT.
Update, 3:32 p.m.: Adds comment from Sony.