Organizers are pulling the plug on the 2020 Games Developer Conference for now. Fears related to the spread of coronavirus have led multiple major companies to pull out of the important industry event. This left GDC with a difficult choice. It could hobble forward without key participants, or it could cancel this year’s gathering. In the end, it went with something in between.
“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.”
“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.”
Organizers say they are planing to hold a GDC event yet this year.
“We fully intend to host a GDC event later in the summer,” reads the statement. “We will be working with our partners to finalize the details and will share more information about our plans in the coming weeks.”
GDC is one of the biggest and most important annual meetings of the people who make games. Developers and publishers attend with the goal of sharing hard-earned lessons and best practices. It’s also crucial for networking and for developers looking for work and publishers looking to sign new games.
GDC couldn’t survive coronavirus or its panic
GDC’s postponement comes as concerns about coronavirus grow. The virus, which transmits the flu-like COVID-19 disease, has already led to massive, city-wide lockdowns in China. And governments in South Korea and Italy are asking employees to work from home where possible. As part of its response, Japan is shutting down all of its schools for a month.
In response to those fears, companies like Microsoft, Sony, Unity, Epic Games, Electronic Arts, and more all dropped out of GDC. Sony even pulled out of the PAX East fan gathering that is happening now in Boston.
But coronavirus has not yet spread in the United States … at least, as far as anyone knows. While the U.S. has only seen 60 confirmed cases, many health professionals are not ordering testing in every possible circumstance. If you have flu-like symptoms but haven’t traveled to China or contacted someone who has, it could take longer to detect active COVID-19. That’s what happened with one case in Northern California. UC Davis Medical center only caught that instance because of “astute clinicians.”
Postponing GDC means that game developers won’t have to rely on astute health workers to minimize their chances of infection.
What does the GDC postponement mean for refunds and reservations?
GDC posted answers to frequently asked questions. If you are a registered attendee, you will get a refund in full if you choose to do so. Some attendees will also get to move their hotel reservations without issue.
“If you are a currently registered passholder, 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,” reads the FAQ page. “Individuals who have made hotel reservations inside the GDC room block will not have to pay penalties or fees associated with their reservations.”
Organizers say that they are also planning to make more of GDC’s closed sessions available free online.
But this postponement is still going to lead to many people losing money on hotels and travel. To help alleviate that, the International Game Developers Association and GameDev.World are partnering to raise money to cover some of those costs for creators.