Microsoft Joins Long List of Companies Skipping GDC Over Coronavirus Concerns

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Sony, EA, Facebook Gaming, Kojima Productions, Capcom and Unity have all opted out of planned appearances at the annual gaming conference set for March in San Francisco.

Microsoft is the latest company to drop out of next month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco amid concerns over the spreading COVID-19 disease. 

"After a close review of guidance by global health authorities and out of an abundance of caution, we've made the difficult decision to withdraw from participating at Game Developers Conference 2020 in San Francisco," the company wrote in a blog post on Thursday morning. "The health and safety of players, developers, employees and our partners around the world is our top priority. Especially as the world is experiencing growing public health risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19)."

Microsoft joins a list of high-profile game companies who have in recent weeks opted to skip this year's convention: Sony, EA, Facebook Gaming, Kojima Productions, Capcom and Unity. 

Shortly after Microsoft made its announcement, Epic Games, through its Unreal Engine's official Twitter account, announced that it, too, would not attend this year's convention: "Here at Epic we were excited about participating in GDC 2020. Regrettably, uncertainty around health concerns has made it unviable to send our employees, and so we have made the difficult decision to withdraw attendance."

On Friday morning, Amazon also announced it would be skipping GDC: "AWS has made the difficult decision to withdraw from the 2020 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco due to continued concerns over COVID-19." The company will instead host a "global online event, open to everyone, to showcase our planned content for GDC and more."

Blizzard, too, made the decision to opt out of this year's event on Friday, tweeting, "Blizzard will no longer attend this year’s @Official_GDC due to growing concerns related to COVID-19. The health and well-being of our teams is our highest priority." 

Gearbox Software also dropped out on Friday, citing ""employees' health and wellness" as the "primary concern."

2020 is slated to be a big year for Microsoft, as the company prepares for the launch of its next-generation console, Xbox Series X, for the holidays. Microsoft was set to demo a few upcoming titles at this year's GDC. In lieu of a physical presence at the convention, the company will now host a digital-only event online from March 16-18, which will focus on "the latest in cloud and game development technologies through our technical talks and developer demos," panel discussions with developers and a "behind-the-scenes look into design and development decisions made by the creators of Minecraft and Gears of War."

With two of gaming's "big three" (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo) absent from the event, GDC has taken a significant hit. Earlier this week, GDC officials said the convention — scheduled to take place in the city from March 16-20 — is still "moving forward as planned." A request for comment from the GDC was not immediately returned.

With another big gaming convention on the horizon, June's E3 in Los Angeles, concerns over the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the games industry remain high, though Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week, "Right now, there isn’t any reason for an event like E3 to be [canceled]."

Feb. 27, 11:15 a.m. Updated with Epic Games' announcement.

Feb. 28, 10:40 a.m. Updated with Amazon's announcement.

Feb. 28, 2:22 p.m. Updated with Blizzard's and Gearbox's announcements.