The threat of the Coronavirus has, based on a number of reports, already created problems for the video game industry, and will likely create more. Those problems don’t compare to the Coronavirus’ effect on the economy and people’s lives, but its impact on one of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment is noteworthy.
Over the last several days, a number of developers pulled out of the Game Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, including a few that reside in that city. Publishers have also canceled plans to attend PAX East, including Sony, which planned to offer attendees their first chance to try out the PlayStation 4 exclusive The Last of Us Part II.
Video game pundits and journalists expect the impact of Coronavirus to grow from here. Publishers have already delayed multiple titles due to the effect of the Coronavirus on Virtuous, a Chinese game outsourcing company, and more related delays may follow.
Many gamers aren’t aware of how much video game production comes from China. AAA video games require the work of hundreds, sometimes even thousands of employees. Enough of that work is outsourced for the viral outbreak in China alone to create significant hurdles for developers. YouTuber Alanah Pearce does an excellent job summarizing it in the video below.
Publishers may have to delay already-announced titles like Cyberpunk 2077 and Marvel’s Avengers due to the sudden loss of their Chinese partners. Or, as journalist Jason Schrier suggests on Wednesday’s episode of the Kotaku Splitscreen podcast, the games may be released incomplete. 2019’s Call of Duty may start with fewer maps. Marvel’s Avengers might be even more unfinished than a typical live-service game.
To make matters worse, Fall 2020 is the release window for the next generation of Xbox and PlayStation consoles. Similarly to other tech companies, Microsoft and Sony may have to delay their new hardware. If the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 don’t hit stores until 2021, the entire industry is affected. That includes GameStop, a struggling retail chain desperate for a boost in sales and counting on the debuts of expensive new game consoles to turn things around, at least temporarily.
We don’t know much for certain, but analysts can see how the spread of the Coronavirus may have major consequences for the video game industry. There are much bigger problems in the world, but escapism is important when things are bad. Without as many new video games, that becomes a little less obtainable in 2020.