Update: Blizzard have now announced that they are also cancelling their GDC attendance, saying "the health and well-being of our teams is our highest priority."
The list of developers and tech companies dropping out of GDC is growing, as Microsoft, Epic Games and Unity confirm they're pulling out due to health risks presented by coronavirus (COVID-19). This is a big blow for the physical conference, but both Microsoft and Unity have mentioned sharing their GDC presentations digitally, so we'll still have a chance to see the behind-the-scenes info they had prepared.
GDC organisers recently released a statement saying things are "moving ahead as planned", after the city of San Francisco declared a local emergency in response to coronavirus (though there have been no confirmed cases in the city yet).
This hasn't stopped companies from taking precautions, though. Microsoft say: "After a close review of guidance by global health authorities and out of an abundance of caution, we’ve made the difficult decision to withdraw from participating at Game Developers Conference 2020 in San Francisco."
They aren't scrapping the sessions they had planned for GDC, however. Instead, they're organising a "digital-only event" between March 16th and 18th to stream most of the content they had ready for GDC.
"Here’s what you can expect to see:
Join us to learn about the latest in cloud and game development technologies through our technical talks and developer demos.
Tune into panel discussions with industry leaders about the evolution of game development, intentionally inclusive game design, the increasing role of online services, next gen hardware, and the future of game streaming.
Get a behind-the-scenes look into design and development decisions made by the creators of Minecraft and Gears of War, and hear from Xbox Game Studios teams Double Fine, inXile, Compulsion, Rare, Obsidian, and Undead Labs."
While this digital event has come about for unfortunate reasons, it's an opportunity for those who may not have been able to travel to GDC in the first place to hear some of this behind-the-scenes info. It's unclear if Microsoft's streams will be available to everyone, but it's worth keeping an eye on their website for any further details.
Epic announced they were dropping out from the conference via the Unreal Twitter account, saying: "Here at Epic we were excited about participating in GDC 2020. Regrettably, uncertainty around health concerns has made it unviable to send our employees, and so we have made the difficult decision to withdraw attendance."
Unity shared a similar sentiment on their blog, explaining that they "do not want any Unity employee, partner, community member or developer to compromise their health and safety unnecessarily."
Like Microsoft, Unity will also be showing the content they had prepared for GDC online, and we can expect more info on what exactly they'll be doing in the coming weeks.
These three join the likes of Sony, Facebook, and Kojima Productions who have all withdrawn from GDC due to health concerns. EA have also stated that they're "limiting their presence" there for the same reasons.
Despite the drop-outs, GDC should take place between March 16th to March 20th. If you want to keep up to date with the conference's plans, they're posting updates on the website while they monitor the coronavirus situation.