GDC postponed to later in 2020 amid coronavirus cancellations [Updated]

The state of GDC 2020 as of 3:00pm (Eastern) on February 28. Most of the major sponsors have withdrawn.
Enlarge / The state of GDC 2020 as of 3:00pm (Eastern) on February 28. Most of the major sponsors have withdrawn.
Update: As of 7:00pm Eastern on Friday, February 28, GDC has thrown in the towel. “After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world,” the organization writes in an update, “we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March.

“We’re genuinely upset and disappointed not to be able to host you at this time,” the update continues, adding that the organization “fully intend[s] to host a GDC event later in the summer,” about which it will provide more information in the coming weeks.

Registered participants with GDC 2020 passes will receive emails regarding next steps about receiving refunds, and participants who booked hotel reservations through the GDC hotel portal or in GDC room blocks will not have to pay penalties or fees associated with cancelling those reservations.

Much of the content from GDC, including many of the presentations that would have been given live as well as the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards, will be either uploaded to the free section of the GDC Vault or made available livestreaming on Twitch, GDC added. Our original story on GDC’s status as of Friday afternoon appears below.

Attempts to contain and mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 are wreaking havoc on travel plans around the globe, and the annual Game Developers Conference is no exception. The majority of major sponsors for GDC 2020 in San Francisco have already pulled out a little more than two weeks ahead of the event’s scheduled March 16 start. As of publication time, however, the event is still on, which raises the question: what would it take to make the GDC cancel?

On February 28 (Friday), GDC posted an update saying, “We are closely monitoring the COVID19 (coronavirus) situation and want to assure everyone that your health and safety are a top priority. If our assessment of the situation changes, based on new and evolving developments or updated information, we will promptly update this statement regarding the status of GDC 2020 accordingly.”

Sony and Facebook both backed out on February 20, the first of the dominoes to fall. Since then, other cancellations have followed rapidly. EA and Kojima Productions both backed out on February 24, then Unity, Microsoft, Epic Games (and Unreal Engine) bowed out on February 27, with Amazon and Activision/Blizzard following on February 28.

Most of those companies are not only major presenters and presences at the conference, they’re also major sponsors. While the companies that have backed out represent only a small fraction of the total planned exhibitors, they occupy an outsize amount of space at the show—extremely literally. A map of the show floor, where the scheduled booth space of companies that have cancelled is blacked out, looks dire:

There be absolutely no digital dragons here, because the companies that render them aren't coming. (As of 3:00pm Eastern, Friday Feb. 28.)
Enlarge / There be absolutely no digital dragons here, because the companies that render them aren’t coming. (As of 3:00pm Eastern, Friday Feb. 28.)

GDC is not the first event to have to make the go/no-go call in the face of COVID-19, and it will not be the last. The world’s biggest telecom show, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Spain, was cancelled earlier this month after vendors backed out. The Geneva Motor Show was also cancelled after Switzerland put a temporary ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people. Nor are smaller gatherings immune: The Eve Online fanfest, scheduled for April in Reykjavik, has also been cancelled, as has Facebook’s own F8 developer conference, which would have started May 5.

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Gaming & Culture – Ars Technica

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