The coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak is now a pandemic. It has spread worldwide and almost every country on earth, every company, every person, is feeling its effects in some way.
The same is true of the game industry. While some of it inevitably slows down or even grinds to a halt, the show must go on. E3 has been cancelled and Gamescom is in the balance, but the Doom Eternal release time must still roll around. Animal Crossing: New Horizons must still come out. It must. It. Must.
People still need to pay their rent, so people still need to be paid, so companies still need to make money, so people still need to work. But that’s obviously much more difficult at a time like this, when everyone is upset or scared, or they might even be suffering from the illness themselves. We spoke to some of the biggest names in the industry to find out how COVID-19 is affecting them, and how they’re adapting to protect their business and their employees.
Ubisoft told PCGamesN: “Ensuring our teams’ health and wellbeing is always our priority. Ubisoft is monitoring the evolution of Coronavirus (COVID-19) closely, and adapting our response as the situation evolves. We have temporarily suspended all international business travel. On a local level, we are following officials’ guidance on temporary office and studio closures, hygiene measures and work-from-home policies in all regions. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and advise our teams accordingly.”
The company’s CEO, Yves Guillemot, also sent round a comforting, personal email to employees, as reported by Kotaku.
The Swedish developer DICE, part of EA, posted the following statement on its social channels recently.
Today we’ve taken the necessary steps to help enable our teams across DICE with the option of working remotely, in order to best protect their health and wellbeing in response to the COVID-19 Outbreak. pic.twitter.com/V3UpXnxzrr
— DICE (@EA_DICE) March 11, 2020
With all staff members working from home for the foreseeable future, the Battlefield and Star Wars: Battlefront developer delivered hand sanitiser and face masks from the office to local hospitals. A nice touch.
Nick Chester, Epic’s senior PR and communications manager, told PCGamesN: “We’ve taken proactive steps to protect the health and safety of our teams, their families, and partners, and have implemented work from home solutions that allow us to continue to be productive. As always, players should keep an eye on our social channels for any news on game updates.”
To protect the health and safety of our employees, we are implementing work-from-home policies for our Irvine and Austin offices. Those in our other offices around the world have been or will be working from home as directed by local governments and health authorities.
— Blizzard Entertainment (@Blizzard_Ent) March 14, 2020
While its offices are therefore empty, the company says it will carry on paying “on-site vendors and contractors”, and its teams will continue to “provide the best experiences we can for players during this challenging time”.
CD Projekt Red
Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt developer CD Projekt Red says it is “adapting to the situation and gradually rolling out preventive measures across our entire organisation”. It goes on to say it has entirely switched over to remote working for the time being, but that these changes are, currently, not expected to affect the Cyberpunk 2077 release date: “We are rising to the challenge and showing no signs of stopping in our effort to bring you some kick-ass role-playing action in September.”
Bungie, the studio behind Destiny and, previously, the Halo series, says it was hit earlier by the outbreak than some other companies due to its location in Seattle, Washington, where there have been a number of COVID-19 cases. “It is critical for all of us, as leaders in the industry, to promote social distancing among our employees,” the company says. “It is a complex message: we need to reduce the rapid spread of the virus to prevent a ‘big spike’ in serious cases that can overwhelm a regional health care system. This is a civic responsibility.”
Bungie goes on to say its priorities are keeping its employees safe, ensuring the studio and its live games remain operational, keeping on track for its “2020 goals”, and supporting those in the local community through the pandemic. It also says it is offering employees an extra 15 days of paid leave, on top of regular annual leave, to be used if they or their family “develop COVID-19 symptoms or if they have to care for family members who are home (e.g. school closure)”.
A message from Rockstar Games pic.twitter.com/uB4syLHROo
— Rockstar Games (@RockstarGames) March 15, 2020
Rockstar also appears to be aware of the numbers of people isolated in their homes: “We will be maintaining our regularly weekly programming schedule, but stay tuned for more events and activities inside GTA Online and Red Dead Online. We wish our players and their families the best of health, and thanks again for your support.”
“Bethesda Softworks is committed to the health and well-being of everyone in our family of global development studios and offices,” the developer said on Twitter recently. “Most of our employees around the globe have the capability to work remotely from the safety of their homes. Those who do not … can stay home and will be paid for regular work hours while we work to make telecommuting possible for them.”
The company continued: “We also want to assure everyone that the entire id Software team is fully prepared to support the launch of Doom Eternal this week. We will continue to do our best to communicate any changes to our current titles and planned release schedules. We appreciate your patience and support, and we hope the very best for you and your families.”
In typical Devolver fashion, the company gave us the following statement: “As a remote-working company we’re in a unique position to keep the motor running during this strange, unsettling time, but we manage it through mandatory online Zumba classes and highly supportive emoji usage on the company Slack channels.
“Despite the fact we may be denied a first Liverpool league victory in 30 years thanks to this terrible pandemic, gamers around the world can rest assured they will still be able to buy full-price Devolver games 24/7 while we ride this sucker out.”