The coronavirus hits just keep on coming. After leading to the withdrawal of Sony and Facebook from GDC, concerns over the outbreak has resulted in four more high profile withdrawals, with EA telling their staff not to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next month, and three major publishers abandoning PAX East.
News about both companies made the rounds overnight and early Wednesday morning Australian time, starting with EA. Alex Sherer, a specialist in ad product development at EA, posted last night that EA management had advised "all EA employees ... not to travel to San Francisco for the conference".
The decision was only made known to staff yesterday. In a statement to GamesIndustry, EA confirmed the emergence of new cases prompted the decision. "Having closely followed the global situation with coronavirus and with the recent escalation of cases in new regions, we have decided to take additional steps to protect the wellbeing of our employees including the restriction of all non-essential travel," EA said.
CD Projekt Red's call to cancel their PAX East appearance, however, will have the greatest impact. The show starts Friday Australian time in Boston, and their decision will be tough for any fans excited for fresh Cyberpunk 2077 content. It's not just CDR though: Capcom cancelled a Monster Hunter meet and greet event during the convention, while Square Enix cancelled a Final Fantasy 14 panel, fan gathering and developer signing sessions because of COVID-19 fears.
I just found out my team is cancelling our PAX East trip so I will NOT be at PAX East as previously planned.
I should still be at GDC though!
— Ｓｔｅｐｈａｎｉｅ Ｂａｙｅｒ (@NSSteph) February 25, 2020
An update on MH Festa: Boston 2020:
Unfortunately, our guests from the MH dev team will no longer be able to attend the event. We will no longer have an autograph session but are still planning to share #Iceborne news.
Our sincere apologies for inconvenience! pic.twitter.com/DVpQugYieS
— Capcom USA (@CapcomUSA_) February 20, 2020
"Taking into consideration the current situation within the region, sadly SQUARE ENIX has decided to cancel the PAX East attendance of staff who would be travelling from the Japan offices," Square wrote. "This difficult decision was based on our desire to prevent any potential spread of the virus and to prioritise the health and safety of our team and our fans."
With more and more publishers pulling out, it increases the likelihood that more high profile departures will follow. And it might not be the only show to suffer. The organisers from Computex, the largest tech show in Asia and one of the highest profile events for CPU, GPU and peripheral manufacturers worldwide, will make a decision in April on whether to go ahead with their annual conference. That said, the organisers are upbeat about Taiwan's ability to contain the virus, citing the development of mobile apps to let citizens know where they can get stock of facial masks, as well as a cloud-based health initiative to connect ID cards and health insurance with customs data to identify potential future coronavirus cases.