Microsoft is pulling out of GDC 2020 over Coronavirus-related health concerns. It joins companies like Unity, Epic Games, Sony, Facebook, Kojima Productions, EA, and more. So far, event organizers have remained insistent that the conference will continue, but this latest development could be the straw that broke the camel's back.
GDC, or the Game Developers Conference, will be hosted in San Francisco from March 16-20. Though there are no confirmed cases in the region, authorities have declared a local health emergency. With fans and press traveling to GDC from all over the world, it has the potential to become a hotbed for the virus. For companies such as Microsoft, employee and developer safety comes first.
“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,” said the company in a statement. “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).”
The good news is that Microsoft will move migrate its presence to a solely digital one. The majority of its sessions and experiences will be available via Microsoft Game Stack, including words from new acquisitions Double Fine, inXile, Compulsion, Obsidian, and Undead Labs. There will also be behind-the-scenes looks into the development of Minecraft and Gears of War.
For GDC attendees, this is still a major upset, however. The official policy is that refunds are only valid if they were made before February 19, 2020, the day before Sony and Facebook pulled out. Of course, that doesn't even count the money already spent on flights and accommodation. Numerous journalists are expecting a cancellation announcement soon, in which case they'll presumably get their money back.