The Game Developers Conference is going to be missing a lot of the biggest game developers. In a little more than two weeks, GDC will kick off in San Francisco without attendance from PlayStation, Oculus, Facebook, Electronic Arts, PUBG Corp or Kojima Productions. They all canceled their plans in response to the ongoing concerns over coronavirus and its potential to become a global epidemic.
Now, three more heavy hitters are out. Microsoft, Epic Games, and Unity have announced that they're also skipping GDC 2020. Epic tweeted confirmation that it's pulling out by saying "Regrettably, uncertainty around health concerns has made it unviable to send our employees, and so we have made the difficult decision to withdraw attendance." Epic is always one of the biggest names at GDC considering how many developers work with the Unreal Engine.
It's a similar story for Unity. Another one of the most popular game engines, Unity has also pulled out of GDC while citing concern for its employees. "While we did not make this decision lightly, the current conditions with COVID-19 (also known as Novel Coronavirus) present too much risk," Unity says. "We take our employees' wellbeing very seriously. We do not want any Unity employee or partner to compromise their health and safety unnecessarily."
Microsoft's withdrawal is more nuanced. According to Microsoft's official Game Stack blog, it seems as though all Microsoft and Xbox-related sessions will be moved to a digital-only format that is available to be streamed. Microsoft won't have any physical presence at GDC, though.
This trio of cancellations may be the biggest yet for the people who actually attend GDC. While their presentations and talks would surely impart valuable knowledge, it's the show floor where their absence will be most noticeable. GDC's show floor largely functions as a job fair -- a recruitment event where people can get facetime with companies they're interested in working for. Now, it's without three of gaming's tech giants. GDC is going to be a shell of its former self, at least for one year.
An update on our GDC 2020 plans [Unity]
GDC and the wellbeing of our teams & community [Game Stack Blog]