E3 Crosses the COVID-19 Cancellation Event Horizon

E3 Crosses the COVID-19 Cancellation Event Horizon

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | With GDC 2020 and other events canceled through the end of June, all eyes turn expectantly to the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Just a few hours after last week's column went up, the unthinkable-yet-inevitable happened: Organizers canceled this year's Game Developers Conference due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Well, technically they just postponed the event and are hoping to have a GDC of some sort in the summer, but given the flood of other cancellations coming through, a bit of skepticism that they'd be able to pull off a GDC 2020 in the summer seems warranted.

In the wake of the cancellation, there's been a lot of talk about how to help developers who had been planning to go and what this means for the industry going forward. There's also been a fair amount of speculation as to whether the next big week for the industry, E3 in June, might possibly be impacted by health concerns.

After all, the E3 host city of Los Angeles declared the situation an emergency, much as San Francisco did in the days before GDC fell apart. The ESA even addressed it directly, saying, "The health and safety of our attendees, exhibitors, partners, and staff is our top priority. While the ESA continues to plan for a safe and successful E3 show June 9-11, 2020—we are monitoring and evaluating the situation daily."

An illustration published via Unsplash and made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reveals the disease's "ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses." | CDC/Unsplash

Personally, I thought fretting over E3 was premature. After all, there's still plenty of time between now and June, and the furthest off event to be canceled so far (that I was aware of, at any rate) was Facebook's F8 developer conference on May 5-6.

But this morning, I received an email informing me that the Collision tech conference in Toronto was canceled and moved to an online-only event this year. Collision had been scheduled for June 22-25, two weeks after E3.

Combine that with the iam8bit news below and the idea of the industry not having an E3 in a year when Sony and Microsoft are both launching new hardware is moving ever-so-slightly out of that "unthinkable" territory, even if it's not yet into "inevitable."

QUOTE | "It's with mixed emotions that iam8bit has decided to resign as creative directors of what was to be an evolutionary E3 2020 floor experience." - iam8bit announces that it is no longer involved with E3 2020. The withdrawal does not appear to be related to novel coronavirus concerns.

QUOTE | "For E3 2020, we're collaborating with industry insiders and new creative partners, including the tastemakers at iam8bit.com, to reinvigorate the show and, frankly, to shake things up." - Back in January, the ESA prominently touted its collaboration with iam8bit to tamp down people's concerns about E3 after Sony announced it wouldn't attend for the second straight year.

QUOTE | "I think one of the things that may come out of this if it's as widespread as I believe it will be, one unexpected consequence is a lot of us who were skeptical about remote work are going to be less skeptical about it." - Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick says temporary work-from-home policies adopted because of the novel coronavirus may reshape the way publishers think about remote development.

QUOTE | "Regarding the PC Engine Core Grafx mini console and its peripheral accessories, the manufacturing and shipping facilities in China have encountered an unavoidable suspension due to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As a result, the delivery of all PC Engine Core Grafx mini products, which was originally scheduled for March 19th, 2020, will be delayed until further notice." - Konami confirms that COVID-19 has given the game industry its first epidemic-induced hardware delay of the year.

QUOTE | "Given their resemblance to gambling, the Committee considers that loot boxes and other simulated gambling elements in video games should be subject to appropriate age restrictions, including through the use of mandatory age verification." - An Australian Parliamentary committee joins the list of international legislative groups calling for governmental restrictions on loot boxes.

QUOTE | "It is very nation-specific, because it emanates from one place right now. I don't want to engage in hypotheticals because there is a very direct, real life example and my focus is on U.S. industry concerns." - When asked if publishers should share data about player behavior with academics so they can research gaming disorder, ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis suggests he won't even answer a question about the idea because the researcher who suggested it was from the U.K.

QUOTE | "'Gaming disorder' is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO's most important norm-setting tools." - In a 2018 joint statement, the ESA and a number of international industry trade groups slammed the World Health Organization for recognizing gaming disorder, saying there wasn't a body of scientific research to justify its inclusion in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

QUOTE | "I think the next step here is to really investigate and interrogate whose stories are being told, not just swapping out gender, race, and sexuality, but asking 'What does it mean to be this character in this world? What are the worlds we are speaking of? What are the mechanics we want to encourage and the values associated with those mechanics?'" - After acknowledging that the industry has gotten better in the way it depicts women, Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian says there's still plenty of room for improvement.

QUOTE | "The PS2 offered something for absolutely everyone, in a way that arguably no console since has achieved even in spite of the indie boom." - On the 20th anniversary of the PS2's Japanese debut, Rob Fahey examines what made Sony's second console such a dominant success.

QUOTE | "The trick is that games made 20 years ago don't resonate with consumers today in the same way that films or music that was made 20 years ago do. The technologies under games have aged less gracefully than they do in film and TV." - Behaviour Interactive's new chief marketing officer David Reid recalls his time working at GameTap and the lesson he learned about video game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now.

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Brendan Sinclair

North American Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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