GDC Pulls out of GDC 2020 [UPDATE]

UPDATE: The official GDC Twitter account issued the following update to its FAQ:

“You will be receiving an email about your registration status and any next steps regarding refunds, which conference and expo attendees will be receiving in full,” the newly updated FAQ reads. “Individuals who have made hotel reservations inside the GDC room block will not have to pay penalties or fees associated with their reservations.” Hooray!

We now return to our original post, already in progress:

The 2020 Game Developers Conference has been indefinitely “postponed,” according to an announcement made moments ago on the event’s official website. The announcement follows several high-profile departures from the annual event’s slate of scheduled speakers, including Microsoft, Sony, and Facebook/Oculus, all of whom made the decision out of concern over the gradually accelerating spread of COVID-19 in North America.

“After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March,” the statement reads. “Having spent the past year preparing for the show with our advisory boards, speakers, exhibitors, and event partners, we’re genuinely upset and disappointed not to be able to host you at this time.

“We want to thank all our customers and partners for their support, open discussions and encouragement. As everyone has been reminding us, great things happen when the community comes together and connects at GDC. For this reason, we fully intend to host a GDC event later in the summer. We will be working with our partners to finalize the details and will share more information about our plans in the coming weeks.”

The briefing, which does not contain the word “refund” as you might have expected, also prompts readers to check the GDC FAQ for more information. As of press time, the FAQ has not been updated to include any new information about the indefinite hold announced today, and it still claims that all requests for a refund must be received before February 19, 2020, which was two Wednesdays ago. It does, however, point out that refunds for “All Access, Core + Summits, Core, Summits, and Audio Passes are subject to a $300 service charge,” which is charming. [Editor’s note: See update above.]

Microsoft, Epic Games, and Unreal Technologies cancelled their plans to attend GDC 2020 yesterday, with each group announcing plans to hold online seminars featuring the talks they would have presented at GDC 2020. It’s unclear if these talks would then be provided again, should plans for a summer GDC event come to fruition.

Earlier in the week, Kojima Productions announced that it too would skip the conference, again over safety concerns stemming from the presence of confirmed coronavirus cases in Northern California. “Kojima Productions has made the difficult decision to cancel our participation at the 2020 Game Developers Conference due to increasing concerns related to novel coronavirus,” the developer said at the time. “Although much-anticipated, unfortunately this cancellation also includes Hideo Kojima’s session on the 19th and Eric Johnson’s session on the 16th.”

Since yesterday, another confirmed case of COVID-19 has cropped up in California, this time in Santa Clara County, which, like the case confirmed on Wednesday in Solano County, is but a relatively short drive from GDC’s home of San Francisco. And like the first case in Solano County, this new patient has no links to known infected persons, nor have they traveled internationally since the outbreak began in China last December. This indicates that the virus is spreading within two separate, previously uncontaminated communities, according to anonymous individuals speaking to the Washington Post.

Correction: This post originally referred to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan coronavirus,” which was a bad call on my part. World Health Organization guidelines specifically forbid the use of location names when classifying a disease, in order to prevent the spread of dangerous misinformation or inferences about specific locations and the people that live there. I regret having contributed to the growing stigma that Chinese- and other Asian-Americans are already facing, and have ensured that future coverage of the virus on Fanbyte will not contain this phrase. I’m also making these changes proactively and voluntarily, because we can always do better.