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GDC postponed after several firms withdraw due to coronavirus concerns

The big gaming event won't happen in March.

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Sony had been expected to unveil details on its upcoming PlayStation 5 during GDC.

James Martin/CNET

Organizers of the Game Developers Conference postponed this year's gathering after prominent companies, including Blizzard,  Microsoft Amazon  and Epic Games, dropped out of the event because of concerns over the novel  coronavirus . The GDC announced the postponement Friday afternoon on the heels of cancellations of other big tech events, like Mobile World Congress and Facebook's F8 conference.

"After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we've made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March," the organizers said in a statement. "Having spent the past year preparing for the show with our advisory boards, speakers, exhibitors, and event partners, we're genuinely upset and disappointed not to be able to host you at this time."

The GDC didn't provide a new date for the event, saying only that "we fully intend to host a GDC event later in the summer." Those who registered for the event will receive an email about registration and refunds. Some developer talks, presentations, the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards will be streamed online. 

GDC, which is where publishers and developers preview new  gaming  tech, was scheduled for March 16-20 in San Francisco. But in light of the spread of the deadly coronavirus from China to the rest of the world, studios decided to ditch the conference.

Coronavirus deaths now top 2,900, with over 85,000 cases confirmed.

Companies had started dropping out before the postponement. Here are what some of the big ones said about their decisions.


On Friday, game developer Blizzard said it would no longer attend this year's GDC due to growing concerns about the coronavirus.

"The health and well-being of our teams is our highest priority," Blizzard said in a tweet, adding that GDC "is and has always been an important event for our developers, so we look forward to participating in the future."

Gearbox Software

Gearbox tweeted Friday that its team wouldn't be attending GDC 2020.

"Gearbox today notified GDC organizers that our team will not attend GDC or be able to give their scheduled presentations," Gearbox said. "Our employees' health and wellness is our primary concern." 


Amazon Web Service (AWS) said Friday that it withdrew from GDC 2020 because of coronavirus concerns. 

Instead of attending, the AWS Game Tech team will hold an online event in May that'll have talks featuring members of the team, interactive demos and AWS experts to speak with. 


Microsoft said Thursday that it's dropping out of GDC because "the health and safety of players, developers, employees and our partners around the world is our top priority."

Instead, Microsoft will hold an online event March 16-18. It'll include sessions on cloud gaming; panel discussions on game development, inclusive game design, online gaming, its new hardware and game streaming; and "a behind-the-scenes look" at work on Minecraft and Gears of War.

Microsoft had been expected to unveil more details on its next console, the Xbox Series X, at GDC.

Epic Games

On Thursday, Epic Games tweeted its decision about not going, saying it'll instead make its planned announcements "through other channels."

"Here at Epic we were excited about participating in GDC 2020," the studio tweeted. "Regrettably, uncertainty around health concerns has made it unviable to send our employees."


Unity's decision to skip the show also came Thursday. In a blog post, the company said the current conditions of the spread of the coronavirus "present too much risk" to send anyone to San Francisco.

"We're advising all employees to refrain from traveling to GDC. We will no longer have a physical presence with a booth, but will instead showcase the great GDC content we've been working towards online," Unity said. It'll reveal details of its online announcements at a later date.


Sony was one of the earlier studios to drop out of GDC, with the PlayStation maker announcing its decision on Feb. 20 due to "increasing concerns related to COVID-19."

"We felt this was the best option as the situation related to the virus and global travel restrictions are changing daily," Sony said in an emailed statement.

Sony had been expected to unveil details on its upcoming PlayStation 5 during GDC.


Facebook's decision was also announced Feb. 20, with the Oculus owner saying "the health of our employees and the wider games community comes before anything else."

Facebook says it'll host GDC partner meetings remotely over the next few weeks, and instead make announcements slated for GDC through videos and online news hits on its Facebook Gaming developer website.


Electronic Arts pulled out of the conference earlier this week, saying it's restricting nonessential travel by employees because of the coronavirus.

"We are also canceling our official participation at GDC and limiting attendance to other events," EA told PC Gamer in a statement.

EA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.


Kojima Productions dropped out of GDC 2020 on Feb. 24, calling it a "difficult decision."

Studio founder Hideo Kojima had been scheduled to give an hour-long talk on the design philosophy of hit game Death Stranding, according to CNET sister site GameSpot.

Originally published Feb. 27.
Updates, Feb. 27: Adds comment from Sony; Feb. 28: Includes GDC postponement and earlier Blizzard, Gearbox and Amazon withdrawals. 

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