Microsoft, Epic Among Companies Dropping Out of GDC Amid Coronavirus Fears

Fears over the ongoing spread of the now-global novel coronavirus have led to an escalating series of cancellations for the video game industry. After Sony dropped out of PAX East, an event happening now in Boston, the company announced it would no longer be attending the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. Facebook also dropped out of GDC, and the company’s now joined by Epic, Kojima Productions, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, and Unity.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/g5x8qm/microsoft-epic-among-companies-dropping-out-of-gdc-amid-coronavirus-fears

Honestly I’m really bummed. This would be the first time I attended GDC and I likely wont be able to go again in the foreseeable future. I’m still planning on going, for now, but at this rate I feel like its going to be cancelled. Also I’m leaving my job soon and was hoping I could network with some of the bigger companies, but since they’re all dropping out that’s another bummer.

Ugh, this sucks so bad

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My office, in a major US city, just sent out an email suggesting that we all take our laptops home with us every night in case they temporarily shut down the office due to coronavirus. I didn’t think there had been all that many cases in the US yet, but apparently there are already more than during the SARS outbreak. But even then, it’s only 60 cases, so it seems like a premature step.

OTOH, canceling travel like these companies are doing is extremely reasonable from a pandemic-control perspective

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I still don’t know if the health concerns are comparable to the news’ fearmongering over it (and certainly not worth the obscene Sinophobia), but for big companies, there is definitely a huge liability risk. Especially if you are Sony or HTC, where potentially you are demoing games in a headset. No amount of sanitising wipes on the leather will get them out of hot water if even one person who wore one of their devices contracted coronavirus.

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There does seem to be more push for people to “be prepared” and I’m willing to bet 95% of that sentiment is coming as a result of how poorly the US (and Japan) handled their cruise ship passengers.

The next week or two will be important and telling.

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Aaand, it’s all cancelled. Fair play, seen a mile off, probably the best choice all things considered.

Agree with everything you’ve said. Especially the fearmongering being a bit overblown—a lot of it seems to rest on statistics not being given the context they need to actually be meaningful. I’ve seen the line “20x more lethal than the flu” thrown around a lot on twitter and it’s just… not a statistically sound statement and only serves to make people agitated, which for people who aren’t specifically at-risk is probably more dangerous in the long run than the virus itself.

But yeah, at conference like that—especially if someone in an at-risk group were to contract the virus there—I can completely understand a company deciding that the potential liability is way too severe to risk. Especially in a country as badly equipped to contain a pandemic as this one.

GDC is also an international event. In the off chance somebody at GDC did maybe catch it, they might bring it back with them. That’d be a worst case scenario.

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Exactly. By the very nature of GDC, you’re mixing people from areas that have been hit with people from areas that haven’t. Postponing the conference is a very sensible move. The fact that people are posting racist shit on Facebook doesn’t change the fact that this is a pretty serious pandemic.

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The math of the virus we’re learning as it shows up in countries not trying to downplay it is what’s scary. Transmission rate of 2-3 and a mortality rate of 2%. Those numbers are similar to the 1918 flu pandemic and it killed 50 million people.

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The 1918 flu epidemic had a mortality rate 7 to 10 times that…

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2.5% according to the CDC https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/12/1/05-0979_article#:~:text=An%20estimated%20one%20third%20of,pandemics%20(3%2C4).

That same report notes in the same paragraph that:

Case-fatality rates >2.5%
and
50 million to 100 million deaths (out of 500 million infected).

50/500 is 10%,which certainly larger than 2.5%!

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That’s not what CFR is, It’s the number of onset infections divided by the number of deaths over a 4 week period.

Yes 10% of people with “apparent” illness (meaning went from definitely healthy to definitely sick) died over the multiple waves of Spanish Flu but that’s the total not the rate. Different things in epidemiology.

I’m not an epidemiologist and I’m not sure if looking statistically at these numbers is productive, so mods feel free to delete my comment if it crosses a line. I’m mainly looking at a medical journal article published on the 24th here.

The paragraph from that article I’ve been focusing on is: “As of the end of February 18, 2020, China has reported 72 528 confirmed cases (98.9% of the global total) and 1870 deaths (99.8% of the global total). This translates to a current crude CFR of 2.6%. However, the total number of COVID-19 cases is likely higher due to inherent difficulties in identifying and counting mild and asymptomatic cases. Furthermore, the still-insufficient testing capacity for COVID-19 in China means that many suspected and clinically diagnosed cases are not yet counted in the denominator. This uncertainty in the CFR may be reflected by the important difference between the CFR in Hubei (2.9%) compared with outside Hubei (0.4%). Nevertheless, all CFRs still need to be interpreted with caution and more research is required.”

Even if those initial uncertainties they mention are not the case, the split between those two rates is astronomical, and paint the situation in a wildly different light. That goes back to what I said earlier in the threat, that running those numbers without context feels sensationalist to me.

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Right, but the apparent mortality, not the CFR, of Spanish flu was 10%-15%, and judging so far from COVID-19, its eventual mortality looks significantly lower (the Chinese figures are a better measure for this, as we’ve had less new cases reported).

See, for example: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/01/the-worst-case-scenario-for-coronavirus-dr-jonathan-quick-q-and-a-laura-spinney

(where specific comparison is given between SARS (itself around as deadly as Spanish flu) and COVID-19)

I’ve been screaming about this for 2 weeks, almost everyone told me I was overreacting. I work tech for a school district as a systems specialist. It is my job to think about current events and how it’ll affect the district then find a solution and I’ve been trying to get my director to prioritize getting things ready to start tele-school to apathy. I stressed the inevitability of the math (exponential… wheat and chessboard story stuff). Tried to explain that our local hospital couldn’t take this virus hitting our community at its worst, we just don’t have the beds and staff for anything over 0.5% of our citizens needing hospitalization.

I’m exhausted and mad, if I’m told we don’t need to worry about it again tomorrow I will tip over the first table I see.

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I’ve gone from not being too concerned a couple of weeks ago to reading reports from Italy and realising how much we’ve been underestimating its effect on our healthcare systems.

I hope this community can support one another. I believe we will!

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So i postponed my vacation to Hawaii. Cost me some cash, and a lot of the people in my life think im stupid to do so, so i kinda feel a bit misrable from that. but i’m confident i made the right choice.

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School district I work for is cancelled tomorrow, not sure things won’t get to the point we don’t resume after our spring break next week.