Sony and Facebook have cancelled their appearances at the Game Developers Conference this year, both citing concerns about the new coronavirus. The yearly conference for game industry workers is typically a source of new information each year, with presentations about the development of influential games and interviews with studio members. Both Sony and Facebook are stepping back this year based on concerns for the health and safety of their workers.
Facebook are cancelling their physical presence at the show but are still planning to present information digitally, they said in a statement to GamesIndustryBiz.
"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 Developer 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."
Similarly, Sony are also backing down from attending the event in person to protect their personnel.
"We have made the difficult decision to cancel our participation in Game Developers Conference due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus). 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."
Sony's change in plans is not altogether surprising, given that they had already cancelled their plans to attend PAX East next weekend where they were expected to debut new information about The Last Of Us 2. For their part, GDC have outlined plans to combat health risks on site including extra use of disinfectant and daily carpet sanitization in expo hall areas.
Prior to Sony and Facebook's announcements, other developers were already forced to cancel GDC attendance to comply with travel restrictions into the United States in response to coronavirus concerns. Exhibitors based in China—about 10 of 550, GDC say—will be unable to attend. Similarly, attendees from China or who have recently traveled through the country will also be unable to attend. According to the US State Department, the country is "barring entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who traveled to China within the 14 days immediately prior to arrival in the United States."
GDC will take place from March 16th to March 20th next month in San Francisco. They have been updating their site as important attendance-related information about the coronavirus becomes available.