Sony announced today that it will back out of PAX East due to the COVID-19 virus, better known as novel coronavirus.
An update on the official PAX East appearance announcement blog reads as follow:
Today [February 19], Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.
Sony makes regular appearances at PAX East, which is the largest and arguably most important gaming-themed convention, industry- or consumer-facing, on the east coast. According to the blog, Sony planned on displaying a breadth of upcoming and popular titles. This included limited hour-long demos for The Last of Us Part 2, as well as the hotly-anticipated Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Other notable games included Space Channel 5 in virtual reality, Doom Eternal, Persona 5 Royal, and Dreams.
This is also a massive hit on the company’s event-to-event presence. Sony already announced it won’t attend nor have a presence around E3, focusing on “hundreds of consumer events across the globe.” (We assume PAX East was supposed to be one of those.)
Conventions open to the public generally attract people who will attend in sickness and in health, leading to what regulars dub as the “con flu” or “con crud.” The spread of illnesses is boosted by travel tiredness, a lack of hygiene, less eating due to event center food prices, after-event booze indulgence, and, most importantly, everyone touching everything.
PAX East, like any other public-facing convention, is a hotspot for sickness. Plus, with its massive appeal as one of the first major gaming events of the year, it draws in people from wider distances, even internationally. The event had over 75,000 attendees according to a Wired report. In light of PAX’s petri-dish status, one fan runs a special PAX-focused Twitter account and site, “PaxPox,” that tries to track how many people end up sick after the event.
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This specific fear isn’t without event-specific precedent. In 2009, PAX in Seattle (before it became known as PAX Prime) even had over 100 confirmed cases of the H1N1 “swine flu.” However, swine flu was speculated to have started in North America, as opposed to the novel coronavirus’s Chinese origins. There were over 3,600 deaths in North America; however, the death toll was not considered to be severe compared to the estimated 43 to 89 million Americans estimated to have been affected, nor compared to annual influenza strains’ impact.
In regards to the novel coronavirus, over 75,000 cases have been reported worldwide, and 2,014 have died — about a 2.6% rate. Still, its spread has been largely contained due to international quarantine measures. Only a total of 14 cases are confirmed in the USA, including one in Massachusetts, where PAX East is taking place.
PAX itself, of course, hasn’t been cancelled due to any of these concerns. We haven’t heard any other withdrawals due to novel coronavirus worries, but there’s also a week to go until the event formally begins. PAX East begins on Thursday, February 27, and runs through leap day until Sunday, March 1, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.