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PlayStation and Facebook cancel GDC appearances citing coronavirus concerns

UPDATE: Kojima Productions also pulls out, cancelling founder's talk

Original story, Feburary 20, 2020: PlayStation and Facebook Gaming/Oculus will not be attending this year's Game Developers Conference due to concerns around the novel coronavirus COVID19.

It follows a series of cancelled or postponed video game events, plus console manufacturing disruption, caused by the outbreak. The virus has infected over 75,700 people so far, killing 2,130. The majority of cases have been in China, with just over 1,000 cases reported in other countries (including 15 in the US).

Facebook says that it is still planning to make announcements at GDC around its Oculus business, but will now do that via digital formats with 'video, online Q&As and more'. The firm says it is removing its booth footprint and advising all employees to refrain from travelling to the show.

"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," a Facebook company spokesperson said. "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. 

"We continue to collaborate with UBM, GDC's parent company, and our partners, and thank them for their efforts."

A statement sent to by Sony Interactive Entertainment read: "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."

PlayStation has already pulled its planned appearance at PAX East next week, where it was expected to show playable code of The Last of Us II.

China-based exhibitors have also had to either cancel their presence at GDC or send North American staff to run their booths. GDC said last week that that this has impacted 'around 10' of the 550 companies participating at the show.

Like most event organisers, GDC are following Government guidelines and protocols around the situation. It said that it is enhancing its sanitation procedures, including adding more hand sanitiser stations, using disinfecting electrostatic sprayers in high-traffic areas, and cleaning the facilities more frequently. GDC organisers UBM is also working with the San Francisco Travel Association to ensure hotels are similarly expanding their hygiene protocols.

GDC is set to run from March 16th to March 20th. The firm said in a statement online that: "We believe that, based on the strict US quarantine around coronavirus and a large number of enhanced on-site measures, we are able to execute a safe and successful event for our community."

Update, February 24, 2020: Kojima Productions has announced via Twitter that it will also be pulling out of GDC 2020 "due to increasing concerns related to coronavirus."

The Death Stranding developer said this was a "difficult decision" and does include the cancellation of talks by founder Hideo Kojima and AI programmer Eric Johnson.

Additional reporting by James Batchelor

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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
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