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Facebook, Oculus and Sony Pull Out of GDC over Coronavirus Fears

Facebook, owner of Oculus, and Sony Interactive Entertainment announced yesterday that they are pulling out of the upcoming Game Developers Conference (GDC), March 16-20 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus.

The move is a major hit to the annual game community confab. Facebook and Oculus were the GDC’s biggest exhibitors with 13,725 sq. ft. of combined booth space. Sony Interactive, with 6,000 sq. ft. wasn’t far behind.

Facebook released a statement saying: “GDC is always a highlight of our gaming event lineup, however the health of our employees and the wider games community comes before anything else. Due to the evolving health concerns surrounding COVID-19, Facebook’s AR/VR and Gaming teams will not be attending GDC this year.

“We’re removing our booth footprint and are advising all employees to refrain from travel during the show. We plan to host GDC partner meetings remotely in the coming weeks. We’ll also replace our in-person sessions at GDC with videos and announcements posted on the Facebook Gaming developer website.”

The company stressed that it will continue to work with GDC’s parent company, UBM, and plans to be at next year’s GDC.

Sony voiced similar sentiments in a statement circulated to the press, which read: “We have made the difficult decision to cancel our participation in Game Developers Conference due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19... We felt this was the best option as the situation related to the virus and global travel restrictions are changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern. We look forward to participating in GDC in the future.”

Meanwhile, show organizers released a statement saying: “We believe that, based on the strict U.S. quarantine around coronavirus and a large number of enhanced on-site measures, we are able to execute a safe and successful event for our community. Locally, the Department of Health for both the State of California and the City of San Francisco support the convening of public events.”

Those enhanced measures include steps taken by staff at the Moscone Center, including:

  • The use of disinfecting electrostatic sprayers in high-traffic areas.
  • More frequent wipedowns of all common touch areas, including doorknobs, lecterns, microphones, light switches, escalator rails, trash receptacles, elevator buttons, water stations and bathroom areas.
  • A significant increase in hand sanitizer stations throughout the Moscone Center.
  • Daily carpet sanitization in the Expo areas.

In addition, GDC is working with San Francisco Travel to ensure that local hotels and venues are also increasing their cleanliness and hygiene regimes appropriately and asking GDC exhibitors to regularly disinfect and clean game controllers and VR headsets that are used by multiple attendees.

Organizers are also encouraging attendees and exhibitors to follow regular CDC guidance for everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses of any kind, including:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay in your hotel or at home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Last week, the GSMA decided to cancel its Mobile World Congress (MWC) – the world’s largest trade show for the mobile phone industry – which was scheduled to open Feb. 24 in Barcelona, Spain, after major companies like LG Electronics, Amazon, Ericsson, Cisco, Facebook, AT&T, Sony, Nvidia, started dropping out of the show due to concerns about the spread of the virus.

At press time, there were more than 76,000 cases of coronavirus reported worldwide, (mostly centered in China), leading to more than 2,200 deaths.

For updates from the Game Developers Conference, visit https://www.gdconf.com/

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