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.

Meta is Discontinuing Quest 1 Support for New Apps Starting Next Month

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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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Les Vega

    if it’s in SanFran why is Covid-19 a concern?

    • Eldon Harris

      People around the world attend the event

      • kool

        Then its probably not a good idea to have them meeting up having them swap face juice and sending them back all over the world again…

    • sfmike

      Can you say contaminated air fights from Asia streaming into the event.

  • Dave

    This is pathetic. Is California now ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak, did I miss something?

    • Agreed, is my first year going too and I’m a bit miffed to be honest

    • sfmike

      The world is currently ground zero. This is probably a good idea.

  • namekuseijin

    It’s not just production being impacted: if someone gets infected while playing at a public event in VR headsets shared by countless people, it would be a PR nightmare for VR. the virus would definitely mean the death of VR, finally…

    let the dust settle…

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Not really, if there is an infected person on the conventionfloor, you’re probably get he virus well before you put on such a headset.. The cancellation has nothing to do with VR-demo’s..

      • namekuseijin

        it’s airborne, right

    • guestguest

      Both those companies have headsets that make a lot of people sick and they just don’t want anyone to question their phony sales numbers that don’t take into account the huge percent of headsets returned for refunds!

      • namekuseijin

        grow your VR legs, VRgin

  • Ryan McClelland

    I can see how you might not want to be doing VR demos to an international audience right now…

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  • Damn, if also GDC gets canceled, that’s a big bummer