PlayStation and Facebook PULL OUT of a global gaming conference in San Francisco over coronavirus concerns

PlayStation and Facebook’s gaming division have pulled out of a major gaming conference due to take place next month over the spread of the killer coronavirus.

The Game Developer Conference, due to take place from March 16 to 20 at the Moscone Center, San Francisco, will be without two of the biggest names in gaming.

Both companies cited public health risks over the virus SARS-CoV-2 which causes the disease COVID-19 and has claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Coronavirus has already forced the cancellation of Mobile World Congress, the world’s biggest tech conference, which was due to kick off in Barcelona on Monday.

‘Out of concern for the health and safety of our employees, our dev partners and the GDC community as a whole, Facebook’s AR-VR and gaming teams won’t be attending this year’s Game Developers Conference due to the evolving public health risks related to COVID-19,’ Oculus said in a blog post.

‘This was a difficult decision, but it’s the right call to make at this time.

‘We’re removing our booth footprint and advising all employees to refrain from travelling to the show.’

Oculus said it will share the announcements it had planned for the show online, through videos and Q&As.

PlayStation maker Sony, meanwhile, said pulling out of GDC ‘was the best option’ regarding the circumstances, in a statement to GamesIndustry.biz.

‘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),’ Sony said.

‘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.’

PlayStation will also be skipping PAX East, another games exhibition in Boston that is still going ahead next Thursday, February 27.

GDC, which consists of five days of lectures, panels, demonstrations and networking spaces relating to gaming, said in a post this week ‘how much it cares about the health of its attendees’ and still believes it can host a safe event.

‘We believe that based on the strict US 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,’ it said.

The organisers said last week that coronavirus – which has infected 76,000 people globally – had impacted around 10 of the 500 companies participating at the show.

Other big-name exhibitors including Amazon, Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft and Nintendo will still be attending as of Friday morning.

However, there is a chance that Sony and Facebook’s absence could lead to other companies following suit, with show becoming less viable if more exhibitors pull out.

Increased safety measures at GDC will include widely-available hand sanitizers, daily showroom carpet sanitation, and frequent cleans of common touch areas such as doorknobs, microphones and escalator rails.

The organisers of the gaming conference are also asking attendees to ‘stay in their hotel’ if they are sick and wash their hands thoroughly before eating.

The event has the backing of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), which does not recommend the cancelling of events as ‘the risk to the public remains low’.

‘We recommend that everyone take normal precautions to prevent getting sick, as this is the height of flu season,’ SFDPH said in a statement earlier this month.

‘There is no recommendation to wear masks to prevent novel coronavirus, which is not circulating in San Francisco at this time.’

The city is treating its first confirmed case of coronavirus of Thursday night, according to NBC.

However, as of Friday morning, SFDPH maintains there are zero confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in San Francisco residents, and the risk to the general public is low.

‘If a case is confirmed in San Francisco we will announce it on Twitter and here on our website,’ it says.