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Here's how game developers are handling the Covid-19 outbreak

"It’s ‘business as usual’ as much as it possibly can be"

Over the last week or so, game developers and publishers around the world have been announcing their action plans amidst the Covid-19 outbreak. Bungie have offered advice to other companies, Ubisoft said Rainbow Six Siege might miss a few patches, and many others have sent their employees home, dev kits in hand, to make sure production plods along, all the while doing their part to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

These are just a few of the many things big developers are doing - one studio even sent their home-working employees care packages, complete with pastries and roll of toilet paper.

To start with, GTA creators Rockstar tweeted earlier this week to let fans know that while they weren't in full working from home mode just yet, they have started rolling it out across the company.

EA made a blog post explaining the company have put restrictions on any unnecessary travel for all their staff, and are recommending that all employees work from home until at least April 1st. Blizzard Entertainment have a similar story, and both of these are still paying contractors and vendors that can no longer work at any facilities they've closed, even if they can't do their jobs from home. Microsoft are doing the same.

Bungie's Seattle studio was forced to prepare pretty quickly for the pandemic. As a result, their teams have been working from home for a little while now, and they've written up some recommendations to help other devs get a handle on their own response (though their guidelines are pretty useful, and could be tailored to any company).

"First of all, we aren't experts in Covid-19. We make games. However, because we are located in the greater Seattle area, we were hit with the outbreak earlier than most game companies in North America and, as a result, have had to move quickly."

"It is critical for all of us, as leaders in the industry, to promote social distancing among our employees. It is a complex message: we need to reduce the rapid spread of the virus to prevent a 'big spike' in serious cases that can overwhelm a regional health care system. This is a civic responsibility."

As Ubisoft put their work from home policy in place, they've let players know that they might have to cut smaller patches from Rainbow Six Siege for the time being. This won't affect the current update or any of the big stuff on the way however, and they'll keep fans posted if anything changes.

"We know this is a trying time for many of you, and we are glad if our games can play even a small part in bringing you some virtual comfort, escape and togetherness right now," they said.

Most of Bethesda's employees are now working from home, and those that are unable to are still being paid normal work hours until they're able to sort something out.

CD Projekt Red's post reads like a reassurance to fans that Cyberpunk 2077 won't see any further delays amongst all this, as they gear up to switch to remote work until everything blows over.

Sega Europe, parent company of Creative Assembly and Sports Interactive, made a statement to let everyone know they're all social-distancing, too.

“Don’t worry about us, it’s ‘business as usual’ as much as it possibly can be in the Sega Europe family and we’ll continue to service our communities as best we possibly can.”

And while Paradox Interactive's staff are working remotely, the studio sent the Stockholm employees care packages with all the daily essentials - complete with a roll of toilet paper.

Finally, I spoke to Bossa Studios (Surgeon Simulator, I Am Bread) and Failbetter Games (Fallen London, Sunless Skies) earlier this week, both of which shared concerns about the loss of community in the games industry with events like the Game Developers conference being cancelled. They're all holed up safely at home as well.

"Traditionally we fill up on positive energy from GDC talks and get a lot of business done over at San Francisco. We had announcement events scheduled for E3, content creators to meet at TwitchCon, and we will miss rubbing shoulders with our peers at EGX. There’s no denying that skipping these gatherings will have an impact on the team."

Alex Ong looked at how indie developers in China have been managing under the coronavirus quarantine, and it looks like the rest of the world is starting to get an idea of what their experiences over the last few months have been like.

Despite the disruption, the only small issues that might affect players are delayed dev streams and the occasional skipped patch. Still, it's good to know that developers around the world are taking precautions to protect the health of their staff, and even continue to pay those who can't carry out their jobs amidst all of this.

Game developers working from home isn't the only impact the pandemic has had one the industry, a whole heap of events have been cancelled or postponed.

If reading about a bunch of cancelled things is getting you down however, I direct you instead towards Alice Bee's post of video games to play while you're self-isolating. Find yourself something fun to get stuck into, take your mind off of things and take care of yourself!

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Imogen Beckhelling avatar

Imogen Beckhelling

Former News Reporter

Imogen is a lore enthusiast and lover of all the fun shenanigans game communities get up to. She spends too much time playing Overwatch, and not enough time having interests that aren't to do with video games.