Well, that escalated quickly. Last week Sony and Facebook pulled out of GDC citing concerns over the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and the question was just how contagious those concerns would be. It turns out the answer is pretty dang contagious. COVID-19 dominated this week's headlines, racking up page views and taking up most of The Discourse online. That's a shame, because there was plenty of other interesting stuff well worth reading about this week.
For example, here's an interview with the developer of The Longing, a fascinating game about exploring a cave that is set over 400 days and takes place in real time.
Or how about an extensive look at GameStop's "laboratory" stores in Oklahoma, giving a glimpse at some of the ideas the retailer hopes will keep it relevant and viable in an industry where people just don't buy and trade in physical games like they used to?
Perhaps you'd be interested in Xbox head Phil Spencer's call for greater transparency in the industry, or my editorial about UK trade group TIGA's new principles for safeguarding consumers, the most radical and substantial move toward transparency I've seen from a trade group, and one that puts TIGA's counterparts to shame.
If you'd like something to really get you assessing whether you believe people are basically good and trustworthy or horrible ambulatory husks animated by self-interest alone, I would suggest reading up on GOG's new refund policy.
If for some reason you'd prefer to conclude the latter, maybe read up on the FIFA player EA banned from all of its games and services for threatening its employees and other players, or the CEO of an indie studio whose racist Twitter rant said his life's goal was to invest in things that would kill people he deemed to be "animals."
And if you prefer your "I can't believe they said that" stories to be a bit more "guilty pleasure" than "is he guilty in a criminal sense," here's Epic Games calling out market intelligence firm SuperData, saying it publishes "wildly inaccurate" reports on Fortnite revenues that "do not align with reality."
Finally, if your thing is actually video games, there's our interview with the CEO of Divinity: Original Sin II studio Larian about its next project, the much-anticipated Baldur's Gate 3.
OK, now that you've gone and read all that great-but-largely-overlooked stuff, let's put on the hazmat gear and see what's happening with COVID-19.
QUOTE | "The health and safety of players, developers, employees, and our partners around the world is our top priority. Especially as the world is experiencing growing public health risks associated with coronavirus." - Microsoft explains why it's pulling out of GDC.
QUOTE | "Regrettably, uncertainty around health concerns has made it unviable to send our employees, and so we have made the difficult decision to withdraw attendance." - Minutes after Microsoft dropped out, Epic Games did the same.
QUOTE | "While we did not make this decision lightly, the current conditions with COVID-19 present too much risk. We take our employees' wellbeing very seriously. We do not want any Unity employee or partner to compromise their health and safety unnecessarily." - Unity announces its withdrawal from GDC.
QUOTE | "Today's declaration reinforces that this is not business as usual. We must be confident that our local readiness efforts are as robust as possible to protect the health of San Francisco residents. This declaration gives us more tools to be even more prepared." - San Francisco director of public health Dr. Grant Colfax explains why the city declared a health emergency this week, even though it has not yet had a confirmed COVID-19 case.
QUOTE | "We are closely monitoring the COVID19 (coronavirus) situation and want to assure everyone that your health and safety are a top priority." - GDC organizers on Friday morning, explaining that the show will go on.
QUOTE | "Please reconsider your refund policy for folks who are deciding not to attend your conference in order to prioritise their health and wellness. Many developers spend their hard earned money to attend, and they shouldn't be punished for their caution." - After canceling his own company's GDC plans, Iron Galaxy CEO Adam Boyes asks GDC organizers to allow attendees to refund their tickets, which cost as much as $2,400 for an all access pass.
QUOTE | "Refunds are not available after February 19, 2020, and are not available for no-shows." - GDC's official registration policy. The first big companies to cancel their GDC appearances, Sony and Facebook, announced their withdrawal on February 20.
QUOTE | "Due to the dynamic changes in the global health situation, the Gouverneur of Silesian Jarosław Wieczorek issued a decision to remove their approval regarding ESL hosting a mass event in Katowice, Poland." - On Thursday, ESL announces that this weekend's Intel Extreme Masters Katowice esports competition will still take place, but there will be no on-site audience to watch it. Last year's event drew 174,000 attendees.
QUOTE | "This was a tough call to make -- F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it's one of our favorite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world -- but we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on." - Facebook announces that it is cancelling its annual Facebook Developers Conference, which had been scheduled for May 5-6 in San Jose.
QUOTE | "Microsoft also continues to make donations to relief and contamination efforts..." - Microsoft, in a press release announcing it would be missing its previous revenue guidance due to impacts on the supply chain from COVID-19. Minutes later, it sent out a correction to say it would be stepping up "containment efforts" rather than "contamination efforts."