GDC 2020 took another big hit today as Microsoft and Epic Games both announced that they will not be participating in the event due to concerns about the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Microsoft announced its withdrawal in a message on its developer website (opens in new tab), saying that "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 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)."
In lieu of GDC, Microsoft will be holding a digital event over March 16-18 at microsoft.com/gamestack (opens in new tab), which will include the majority of the sessions it had planned for GDC.
"GDC has long been a moment for us to come together and celebrate Gaming for Everyone (opens in new tab) with our many vibrant communities," Microsoft said. "While we won’t be able to bring our G4E events online, we remain committed to celebrating and amplifying our diverse communities in gaming throughout the year."
Shortly after Microsoft announced that it will skip this year's event, Epic Games announced via the Unreal Engine Twitter account that it too will not be taking part.
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.Stay tuned for Epic news and more through other channels.February 27, 2020
Microsoft and Epic join Sony, Facebook, Electronic Arts, and Kojima Productions, who have already pulled out of the event (opens in new tab), and as the dominoes continue to fall the viability of GDC increasingly comes into question. GDC said on February 25 that the event is "moving forward as planned (opens in new tab)," but with so many major players stepping away there's less and less reason to go regardless of the risks involved.
GDC 2020 is scheduled to run March 16-20 in San Francisco. I've reached out to inquire about possible changes to the status of the show, and will update if I receive a reply. For more information on the Covid-10 coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control (opens in new tab) for updates in North America, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (opens in new tab) , or the World Health Organization (opens in new tab).
Update: Microsoft confirmed via email that it is also cancelling the Xbox Preview Event in San Francisco, and the ID@Xbox GDC Showcase.