Coronavirus: The ongoing ripple effect throughout the gaming industry

Lisa Marie Segarra

The impact of coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, continues to grow as multiple gaming companies announce delays and interruptions. The outbreak has disrupted life in China as daily activities in public spaces and workplaces are put on hold while officials try to contain the virus. With much of the tech industry, including gaming, relying on China for production and materials, a ripple effect was quickly felt. As the virus spreads across the world, including the U.S., further impacts on games, conferences, and hardware arise.

Digital Trends is monitoring the situation, and a list of the impacts within the gaming industry follows below.

E3 2020 canceled

E3 2020 contingency plans

E3 has been the go-to annual occurrence for the video game industry since the ’90s, but the Entertainment Software Association canceled this year’s event. The organization cited the coronavirus as the reason, fearing for game industry employees and attendees’ safety if it were held the traditional way.

A digital-only version could be coming, with several companies like Microsoft, Devolver Digital, and Ubisoft already committing to holding nontraditional press conferences to still deliver the latest game announcements and trailers.

Game Developers Conference postponed

GDC

This year’s Game Developers Conference is postponed to help prevent the virus’ spread. The conference will be rescheduled to summer and all attendees will receive a refund.

“After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March,” an announcement said on GDC’s website.

The decision came after several high-profile game studios dropped out of the event including Microsoft, Sony, and EA. GDC plans to upload planned talks to its YouTube channel and stream certain scheduled events via Twitch.

Nintendo Switch production delayed for the Japanese market

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Production on the Nintendo Switch for the entire Japanese market is in flux, leading to shortages of Switch consoles, accessories, and games. Pre-orders for the new Animal Crossing: New Horizons Switch model now have no release date in Japan. Orders of Ring Fit Adventure, which is out of stock in the country, won’t be filled anytime soon either. Nintendo said other accessories like Joy-Cons are also affected.

A Nintendo of America spokesperson confirmed to Digital Trends that the company does not expect delays in other regions, including North America and Europe. Nintendo makes its hardware for Japanese gamers in China, where the coronavirus has killed hundreds and continues to spread.

Oculus Quest back-ordered

Popular VR headset Oculus Quest is back-ordered, and it seems that it will remain so for a while.

“Oculus Quest has been selling out in some regions due to high demand,” an Oculus spokesperson told Digital Trends in an email. “That said, like other companies, we’re expecting some additional impact to our hardware production due to the coronavirus. We’re taking precautions to ensure the safety of our employees, manufacturing partners, and customers, and are monitoring the situation closely. We are working to restore availability as soon as possible.”

The Quest is out of stock on the company’s website, Best Buy, and Amazon

Overwatch League events canceled

On March 11, Activision Blizzard Esports decide to cancel all Overwatch League events in both March and April to reduce infection risk for players and attendees. In its announcement, the organization said it will be looking to have matches played when it is “safe and logistically possible,” and that it will try to stick to its original schedule as much as it can. The matches themselves will still be played during this period and broadcast online, but will not be public events when they return March 21. The match schedule is also being revised to minimize any latency issues.

Call of Duty League events canceled

Following the cancellation of Overwatch League events, Activision Blizzard opted to do the same for Call of Duty League events, moving all matches to an online-only format for the remainder of 2020. It doesn’t appear any games will be canceled as a result of the decision.

The matches will be broadcast live to fans, and the current plan is to move matches back to a city-based format in the future.

Electronic Arts suspends all competitive gaming live events

Electronic Arts has suspended all competitive live events for its games, including EA Sports titles and Apex Legends in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. This not only includes events EA runs itself, but also official events licensed to third-party organizers.

No timetable was given for when the suspension will end other than when “the global coronavirus situation improves.”

Plague Inc. dropped from Apple App Store

The pandemic simulation game Plague Inc. has been taken down from Apple’s App Store in China — after finding renewed popularity due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Sales of Plague Inc. recently surged, particularly in China, eight years after its release, amid concerns over the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19. The app reportedly topped the charts for premium iOS games in China, and also climbed up in the rankings in other countries such as the U.S. and U.K. as well.

Outer Worlds port for Switch delayed

Beyond hardware, Switch players must now wait for a version of the game Outer Worlds. After announcing the 2019 title would come to the Nintendo Switch just last month, Private Division said on Twitter that the game is delayed. Virtuous, the Singapore-based studio working on the port, has experienced no health issues, the publisher assured, but its office remains closed.

Adding a positive note among the unfortunate news, Private Division said Switch players will get a physical cartridge option for Outer Worlds. Previously, the Switch game was only to be made available via download.

TurboGrafx-16 Mini delayed

Konami’s TurboGrafx-16 Mini — a plug-and-play console pre-loaded with 50 games from the retro system — was scheduled to release on March 19, but it is delayed indefinitely because of the coronavirus. The manufacturing and shipping facilities where the console and its accessories are handled were both affected by the virus, and a new release date has yet to be set.

Konami said it will provide more information on a new release date when new timing is confirmed. However, pre-order holders don’t know when the console is shipping.

EVE Online’s Fanfest canceled

EVE Fanfest

EVE Online’s annual Fanfest is canceled due to COVID-19. The event was scheduled to start on April 2 in Iceland, which just confirmed its first case of the virus.

“We realize that the situation a month from now could be very different, but the way events are developing both globally and in Iceland’s neighboring countries, an in-depth and serious review has made it clear that this is a necessary step to take,” explains a post on EVE’s website.