Due to fears of the current Coronavirus outbreak, multiple companies say they will not attend Game Developers Conference 2020 and PAX East. Sony led the way, dropping out of PAX East on Wednesday last week. Just a day after, Sony also announced they would not attend GDC this year.
We’re so sad to have to miss PAX East! We were really looking forward to meeting you and seeing your reactions to the demo. Although we know this makes the wait until May 29 a bit harder, we appreciate your understanding. Don’t worry, we’ll have more to share closer to launch. https://t.co/tIJ0Z7Ztcs
— Naughty Dog (@Naughty_Dog) February 19, 2020
Now, more companies, big and small, are making the decision to avoid gaming/esports events. Just this week, EA made the move to cancel their GDC attendance. In addition, Facebook, the parent company of Oculus and Kojima Productions, the team behind Death Stranding, announced they will not have a presence at GDC.
Kojima Productions has made the difficult decision to cancel our participation at the 2020 Game Developers Conference due to increasing concerns related to coronavirus. (1/2)https://t.co/K6FJtq5Tpx
— Kojima Productions (@KojiPro2015_EN) February 24, 2020
At PAX East, other companies scaling back their attendance also include Capcom and Square Enix.
As the virus continues to pose a threat globally, gaming and esports fans will see more situations like this arise. Last month, the LPL announced an indefinite hiatus and Blizzard canceled Overwatch League matches in both China and South Korea. Should the virus continue to spread, high attendance events will be canceled due to the increased risk of spreading disease.
Despite the threat of the virus, esports does have the unique ability to take place fully online. This gives esports organizations an option to continue events without in-person gatherings. Of course, that presents other issues. Connection strength is a big player concern, but at least fans can still enjoy the game. For example, the LPL in China announced online scrimmage matches for teams. These games won’t affect standings, but they still provide entertainment to viewers.
While there are legitimate concerns over the Coronavirus’s spread, some feel the choices made by these companies are unwarranted. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who, according to Boston ABC affiliate WCVB, sent a letter to Sony asking them to reconsider their attendance. The letter reportedly reprimands the company, saying that the choice not to attend PAX East was a result of “confusion and lack of information.” Walsh continues to say that Sony’s choice encourages and reinforces negative stereotypes.
“These fears reinforce harmful stereotypes that generations of Asians have worked hard to dismantle, they trigger our worst impulses: to view entire groups of people with suspicion, to close ourselves off, and to miss out on the opportunities and connections our global city provides,” said Marty Walsh. “Boston is united in our efforts to dispel these harmful and misguided fears.”
Walsh added that instead of promoting stereotypes, Sony’s attendance serves as a good example for Boston and the world. However, these choices aren’t being made out of malice or ignorance as Walsh may imply. Companies choose to follow the old saying, “better safe than sorry” when it comes to putting their employees at risk.
Written by Efren Hurtado