Yesterday Sony revealed that PlayStation would not be attending PAX East next week due to coronavirus. It had planned to showcase The Last of Us Part II alongside a number of other games at the event. The company will also be canceling its attendance to Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2020, citing the same health concerns for its global workforce. Sony made a statement to GamesIndustry.biz regarding PlayStation canceling its GDC 2020 appearance:
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.
The Sony GDC 2020 cancelation statement largely mirrors the statement made regarding PAX East, but does give a bit more insight into the decision. Sony says that due to the ever-changing situation surrounding the virus and various travel restrictions caused by it, canceling PlayStation GDC 2020 attendance was the best course of action. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean Sony is out of GDC altogether (unlike, I would suspect, future E3s). The company specifically says “We look forward to participating in GDC in the future” as a way to allay any concerns that PlayStation is swearing off conventions and expos entirely. They’ll be back when health safety is not a concern.
This is the third conference Sony has said it won’t be attending this year, after announcing that it wouldn’t be making an appearance at E3 2020, the second year it has avoided the expo. It’s expected that the decision to pull out of GDC 2020 was not made lightly. This close to the show, the company would have already booked floor space, travel, and accommodations, which it is now likely to take a loss on as it cancels. GDC is also where Sony would have begun courting developers for the PS5, set to launch holiday 2020. While certain devs are undoubtedly already on board, the GDC ahead of a new hardware launch is a big one for getting down to brass tacks. It’s also why many expected the full PS5 reveal to occur before GDC kicked off in mid-March, but even the PS5 reveal event timeframe is now called into question by coronavirus.
At this point, there are more than 75,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 2,100 that have died from it. The outbreak is largely localized to mainland China, however, the virus has been detected in at least 27 countries total, including 15 in the US. While it’s unlikely that these events themselves are at significant risk from coronavirus, global travel and mass gatherings of people from around the world present an inherently increased risk.
Facebook Gaming/Oculus is also canceling its GDC 2020 attendance over the same concerns. GDC 2020 runs from March 16 to March 20, gathering 550 companies in San Francisco. Organizers say that they are enhancing health and safety measures for the remaining exhibitors that still plan on attending.