Organizers behind San Francisco’s Game Developers Conference said they were being “optimistic” when they canceled their March gathering and instead set one for August. Now, the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have derailed plans for an in-person summer conference. GDC will instead stage a three-day digital event beginning Aug. 4 as the ongoing effects of the current health crisis continue to wreak havoc on public meet-ups.
“While we very much look forward to meeting again in person as soon as possible, we are moving forward with a plan to transform GDC Summer into an all-digital event in order to best serve our community,” read a statement emailed to media and posted on the group’s official Website.
The March gathering, canceled on Feb. 28, just two weeks before it was supposed to begin, made the Game Developers Conference one of the first major events to be aborted due to coronavirus concerns after a number of top gaming companies, including Microsoft, Sony Interactive Entertainment and Electronic Arts, had already pulled their participation.
Soon, a number of major conferences and events, including South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and Southern California’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, would follow the GDC’s lead and cancel or postpone.
GDC instead made do with a week of online programming, hosting a number of talks that had been planned for its March conference, which was expected to draw close to 30,000 professionals.
Those conversations were quickly prerecorded, allowing speakers to interact with viewers in chat rooms while the presentations streamed on Twitch. Many of the talks emphasized various forms of accessibility, in turn creating a virtual festival that somewhat accidentally reflected a time when a new audience might be looking to games for entertainment.
Themes for GDC Summer have yet to be announced, although during a conversation in March, conference general manager Katie Stern said the current climate would no doubt figure heavily into any programming.
“I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be addressed,” she said at the time. “We have a pretty strong record of discussing and having conversations and talks around topics in the industry that would otherwise be considered taboo. Things like health and wellness within studios and handling harassment in the community and things around unionization. Other conferences may potentially shy away from that, but we lean into it.”
A representative for GDC said that the August happening would be a paid event with multiple free elements, details of which will be released in the coming weeks.
“As so many game developers embrace remote working arrangements and online collaboration,” said the conference statement, “we’re inspired to adapt and deliver GDC in a digital format that will be available to everyone with an internet connection, and will work hard to deliver the high-quality content and networking opportunities GDC attendees have come to expect.”