Video Games Industry Reacts to Coronavirus, Boston Mayor Urges Sony to Attend PAX East to Dissuade “Harmful Stereotypes”


The video game industry has reacted to the coronavirus over the past few weeks, canceling appearances at conventions and warnings of shortages on products. Meanwhile, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has implored Sony attend PAX East, rather that perpetuate “harmful stereotypes.”

On January 30th, we reported on how the Overwatch League and League of Legends Pro League announced they would be cancelling all games set to take place in China. On February 6th, Private Division announced a delay in The Outer Worlds coming to Nintendo Switch (but that the game would have a physical version on the console).

On February 17th, Bloomberg (via Gamasutra) reported that the Nintendo Switch could suffer a shortage in the US. This was due to supply issues in China, which in turn would affect output in Nintendo’s factory in Vietnam. If so, the impact would be felt around April.

Nintendo themselves stated there had been no “major impact,” and that they did not foresee any shortages. However, they did state the situation may change if the cornavirus’ spread grows worse. Back on February 6th, Reuters claimed that shortages would be “unavoidable” in Japan.

Around February 14th, more details about the PlayStation 5 surfaced (via Bloomberg). While Sony’s Chief Financial Officer Hiroki Totoki reportedly stated that the virus had not affected production of the new console, some had their doubts.

The scarcity of some parts is also an alleged issue for Sony, with one anonymous source claiming their “biggest headache is ensuring a reliable supply of DRAM and NAND flash memory, with both in high demand as smartphone makers gear up for fifth-generation devices.”

In addition, Sony is allegedly taking a “wait-and-see” approach to how Microsoft will price their upcoming Xbox Series X.

It stands to reason both consoles would be affected by the coronavirus, whether their factories were in China, or surrounding nations such as Vietnam. The aforementioned issues with DRAM and NAND flash memory could also be further impacted (or originally caused by) the coronavirus.

Sony (via PlayStation) would later announce (on February 14th), that they would cancel their appearance at PAX East. “We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily,” PlayStation announced on their blog. “We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

Soon after however (on February 22nd), the Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh implored Sony to attend the event. WCVB reports that Walsh wrote to Sony Corporation President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida.

Walsh emphasizied the chances of catching the coronavirus in Boston and the state of Massachusetts (in WCVB’s words) “remains extremely low and that officials have no reason to believe that anyone should cancel their plans to visit the city.”

Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering is mapping the virus’ spread [12]. As of this time of writing, there have been over 79,500 cases, and over 2,600 deaths. Over 25,000 people have made a total recovery. There have been 35 cases across the US, with 5 recoveries, and no fatalities. Boston (and Massachusetts) has one case.

Walsh also stated the fears surrounding the coronavirus had been fueled by confusion and a lack of information. Walsh claims this has led to anti-Chinese and anti-Asian “sentiment” across Boston and the US.

“These fears reinforce harmful stereotypes that generations of Asians have worked hard to dismantle,” Walsh’s letter reportedly stated. “They trigger our worst impulses: to view entire groups of people with suspicion, to close ourselves off, and to miss out on the opportunities and connections our global city provides. Boston is united in our efforts to dispel these harmful and misguided fears.”

“As a large, international company, you have an opportunity to set a good example. As a leader in technology, you can show that you are motivated by facts, not fear. As a leader in gaming and culture, you can show that you believe in connection, not isolation.”

Walsh had recently been attempting to quell the public’s concerns over the coronavirus, and encouraging people to visit Boston’s Chinatown [1, 2, 3, 4]. Speaking to WCVB, Walk stated “This is their bread and butter, and if they’re losing business, they’ll have to shut their doors. Their margins of making a profit are very short, so we need to support them.”

On February 21st, Square Enix announced they would be cancelling several Final Fantasy XIV events at PAX East involving staff from East Asia region traveling to the US. “This difficult decision was based on our desire to prevent any potential spread of the virus and to prioritize the health and safety of our team and our fans.”

“The Artwork of FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Look Behind the Screen” panel will no longer be an on-stage panel, but instead a livestream from Japan on February 29th. The Develop Singing Sessions & Photo Opp and Fan Gathering Events have been cancelled. The Ruby Weapon battle challenge and New Player Experience events will still be running, along with other photo opportunities

Finally, Kojima Productions announced on February 24th [1, 2] that they would not be attending the Game Developer’s Conference 2020 (GDC). This would have included (according to VG24 7), sessions on March 16th and 19th, hosted by AI programmer Eric Johnson and Hideo Kojima respectively.

The coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, has caused havoc across the world, affecting numerous industries. GoogleAppleFacebook, all temporarily closed their offices in China. Numerous anime episodes and real-life events in Japan were delayed or outright cancelled [1, 2].

Image: Pixabay

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Ryan was a former Niche Gamer contributor.

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