Attendees wear Oculus VR Inc. Go wireless virtual reality headsets during the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, California. Getty Images
“GDC is always a highlight of our gaming event lineup, however the health of our employees and the wider games community comes before anything else,” Facebook said in a blog post. “Due to the evolving health concerns surrounding COVID-19, Facebook’s AR/VR and Gaming teams will not be attending GDC this year.”
Facebook typically uses the conference each year to make announcements for its Oculus virtual reality division and its other endeavors in gaming. A company spokesman said Facebook will still make its planned announcements, but it will do so in a digital format. The company said it plans to return to GDC in 2021.
Sony, the maker of the PlayStation game console, issued a similar statement on Thursday, saying it would not participate in GDC in 2020. Sony’s decision to pull out was first reported by GameIndustry.biz.
“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),” Sony said in a statement. “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.”
GDC is still scheduled to take place, and a spokesman for the conference said it is taking measures to keep attendees safe.
“The GDC team is following developments around the Novel Coronavirus closely as we take the health and safety of our game development community very seriously,” a spokesman for GDC told CNBC in a statement. “Following the strict quarantine laws put in place by the US government and guidance from the Department of Public Health, WHO and CDC, which has seen us put in place enhanced on-site measures, we are confident that the Game Developers Conference will follow in the footsteps of other large and successful international events taking place at the Moscone Center.”
Facebook will also not send any employees to PAX East, a gaming convention scheduled to take place in Boston from Feb. 27-March 1. A Facebook spokesman said the company is unable to send any employees to PAX East due to concerns around the coronavirus, but it is “eager to attend and participate in future PAX events.”
The fast-spreading virus has infected more than 75,000 people — up from just 282 cases as of Jan. 20 — and spread from four countries to more than two dozen in that time frame.