Facebook/Oculus & Sony Pull Out of GDC Over Coronavirus Concerns

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Facebook and Sony today announced they won’t be attending the annual GDC conference in San Francisco next month other Coronavirus concerns. GDC has historically been a key event for both Facebook/Oculus and Sony, with major announcements and previews of what would come from each company’s VR ventures throughout the rest of the year. Facebook, at least, says it will still share its planned announcements despite not attending the show.

“Out of concern for the health and safety of our employees, our dev partners, and the GDC community, Facebook will not be attending this year’s Game Developer Conference due to the evolving public health risks related to COVID-19,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We still plan to share the exciting announcements we had planned for the show through videos, online Q&As, and more, and will plan to host GDC partner meetings remotely in the coming weeks. We continue to collaborate with UBM, GDC’s parent company, and our partners, and thank them for their efforts.”

GamesIndustry.biz reported today that Sony made the same call:

“We have made the difficult decision to cancel our participation in Game Developers Conference due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus). We felt this was the best option as the situation related to the virus and global travel restrictions are changing daily,” the company told GamesIndustry.biz. “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.”

The Coronavirus, a novel respiratory virus, began in China with the first reported case on December 31st, 2019; health organizations have since designated the strain as ‘COVID-19’ for specificity. The virus has seen more than 75,000 confirmed cases and 2,100 deaths, according to the latest information from the World Health Organization. While COVID-19 has spread to 27 other countries to date, 99% of cases have been confined to China.

In years past, GDC was used by both Oculus and Sony to reveal the latest versions of new VR headsets and content. The show has also been important for Valve and its VR activities; in 2015 it was where Valve and HTC first revealed the Vive, and Valve has frequently used the event to showcase the work of VR developers with games on Steam.

This isn’t the first impact that COVID-19 has had on Facebook and Oculus. Earlier this month the company said it expects its manufacturing operations to be impacted by the outbreak, making Quest more scarce; the headset has been largely unavailable for many weeks now.

Neither Sony nor Valve have said whether COVID-19 is or could constrain the supply of their headsets. Sony’s PlayStation VR seems to have ample stock for the most part, though like Quest, Index has been sold out for weeks on end.

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