First it was Mobile World Congress, and now at least two more technology associated shows have been cancelled. What else will likely be cancelled in 2020?
There’s no denying the serious threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus, because it’s infecting and affecting people, killing roughly one to two percent with no likelihood of a vaccine for months at the earliest.
With countries attempting to contain the virus, travel alerts have been issued and ports are handling the situation differently, as borders close and flights get cancelled, and that is clearly making a dent on the world’s trade shows, especially as companies look to keep their employees safe amidst the concern.
The coronavirus is clearly making an impact on the world’s manufacturing, which is having a knock-on effect for big technology, but now that containment is a major focus of the world, the trade shows that make news for games and technology around the world are being put on hold, and could send all news and releases to the web this year, rather than in person.
The first one that went this way was Mobile World Congress (MWC), which saw big names depart one by one until the organisers GSMA cancelled the show for the year, a smart move in the grand scheme of things because phones require a lot of touch, and the sheer idea of a trade show where hand shakes weren’t allowed as part of the precautions was just unlikely to work.
However MWC’s cancellation was just the start, and with the news that the Geneva Motor Show has been cancelled alongside companies such as Microsoft having had dropped out of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, you’ll probably not find it terribly surprising that GDC 2020 has this week been postponed.
Postponing the event is a nice way of saying that it might still arrive later in the year, which is important because organisers still plan to run the event, likely after the coronavirus has been contained.
Yet with no end in sight, no one is quite clear when that will be, and world events are stacking up, cancelling as the year wears on. This week, the High End 2020 show in Munich, a HiFi expo in Germany that runs in May has announced it too has been cancelled this year, thanks to the coronavirus, and we bet it won’t be the only show to see a cancellation.
What shows will go on, and what will be cancelled?
SXSW – March 13-22, 2020
The next show on the list, South by Southwest (SXSW) in Texas often gets companies to pop up and show their wares as it serves up a smorgasbord of creativity, delivering music, film, and some ingenuity, as well.
With that in mind, you might expect a few technology companies to head to this massive show, and it has yet to be cancelled.
While anything could happen in the next couple of weeks, we suspect this one will stay running.
UPDATE: Nope, cancelled.
Facebook F8 – May 5-6, 2020
Facebook’s big conference for developers focusing on both its services and hardware has been a regular for a few years now, but in 2020, Facebook won’t be having it.
Citing concerns for the growing coronavirus, Facebook has cancelled F8 2020 a couple of months out, with the in-person event likely replaced with video-based events, such as that of live streaming.
The social media giant has cited that it does expect to see its community of developers next year at F8 2021, though that will likely be largely dependent on whether experts can crack coronavirus as a whole.
Google I/O – May 12-14, 2020
While Facebook has cancelled its big developer conference, Google seems like it’s still going ahead with its own, Google I/O 2020.
It’s a bit of a surprise move, though it’s possible Google will subsequently limit who it brings overseas for the event if it pushes forward.
It’s also entirely possible that Google will cancel I/O 2020 this year, especially as we have a good two months until the show begins, and a lot can happen in that time.
Apple WWDC – June 2020
Facebook and Google aren’t the only major companies with their own developer shows, because there’s also what comes from Apple, too.
Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) is usually pencilled in for June, and we’ll know for sure if Apple plans to push ahead in the next few weeks.
WWDC is typically where Apple talks up software changes for its macOS and iOS platforms, and with the possibility that the coronavirus could stall manufacturing for Apple’s new products, it may need this time to talk about all the amazing things Apple is doing with software working on current devices, as well as what’s coming later on.
However if the coronavirus control efforts aren’t stemmed, it will be interesting to see if Apple keeps this one as a physical event. Like Facebook, it could run the event as a video-based livestream, and release its beta software over the web as it always has.
Apple typically releases WWDC dates in March, so we should know if the company plans to run WWDC 20 very, very soon.
UPDATE: The physical presence of WWDC has been cancelled, but Apple is moving it to an online event in what the company calls a “new format”. Here’s hoping it’s a little more than a video conference.
E3 2020 – June 9-11, 2020
Another June conference, the E3 Expo video game conference seems like it will likely go ahead, at least at the time this was published.
Of course, a lot can change in the next few weeks, and with big names leaving the Game Developers Conference in California, it’s also possible we’ll see a similar exodus happen to E3, as well.
With E3 likely the place where both Microsoft and Sony talk up their next major console efforts, E3 2020 is a pretty big deal, so if Microsoft and Sony both walk from E3 as it did from Mobile World Congress, we could see E3 2020 postponed until E3 2021.
UPDATE: Nope. That’s been cancelled, too.
CES Asia – June 10-12, 2020
CES has two major events of the year, and they occur at different times.
At the beginning of the year, you can expect CES in Las Vegas, and this year, CES 2020 was a big deal, as it always is. In the middle of the year, Asia also holds a massive tech show of its own, with CES Asia, held in Shanghai.
This year, however, unless the coronavirus can be contained or cured, we expect CES Asia will be cancelled, particularly since China is more or less ground zero for where the majority of cases kicked off, and airlines have been scaling back and/or cancelling flights to China in the weeks since.
In other words, we’ll be surprised if CES Asia 2020 isn’t cancelled as we push into the year.
UPDATE: This one is now postponed, which is about as close to saying cancelled for the year as it gets.
MWC Shanghai – June 30-July 2, 2020
One Mobile World Congress (MWC) has been cancelled, so will the other?
We’re several months out from MWC Shanghai, but unless the situation in China is controlled and contained, we expect this is one of those shows that will be cancelled before it arrives.
Flights to the region would likely be affected, let alone the concerns by companies for its workers, so if we had to place bets, we suspect MWC in Shanghai won’t be on the cards for 2020, and that video announcements will instead be more likely.
IFA Berlin – September 6-11, 2020
The year’s second-half CES typically takes place in Europe, IFA Berlin, and while we hope coronavirus will be contained quickly, it’s hard not expect this to take a little longer than everyone expects.
Europe is already seeing the effects of coronavirus, and while the reported numbers are significantly lower than that of China, the world’s governments are taking the threat seriously on what the World Health Organisation is report. At the time this was published, Germany had 26 known cases, while other European nations were seeing their own cases, too.
September is quite a way off in the distance, but with the High-End show in Munich cancelled two months out, we’ll be genuinely surprised if IFA Berlin 2020 goes ahead, even this far out.
However because it’s in the distance, you’ll want to stay tuned with regards to whether shows held in the back half of the year are cancelled at all, or whether they go ahead, as there’s really no telling at this time.
HiFi 2020 – September 18-20, 2020
Organised by local reviewer and audiophile journalist Jez Ford, HiFi 2020 promises to provide Australians with their own taste of a HiFi show, featuring big speakers, big headphones, and big sound overall.
The COVID-19 coronavirus situation has already forced its hand once, with the show moving from its April date to later in the year with September. Here’s hoping this thing will have calmed down by then, and it won’t move later on.
Tokyo Gaming Show (TGS) – September 24-27, 2020
Much like IFA Berlin 2020, TGS 2020 is too difficult to call from March, because September is just so far away.
Outside of China, Japan sits just behind South Korea in terms of how many coronavirus cases have been reported in Asia, and Japan is already dealing with the prospect that it may have to cancel the 2020 Olympics.
If we had to bet, we’d say the Tokyo Gaming Show 2020 probably won’t go on, though if it does, you may expect to see companies from outside of Japan cancel their presence, while the large scope of Japanese developers stay in the show to talk about their upcoming titles.
Computex 2020 – September 28-30, 2020
One of the largest computer shows and typically a spot for where Intel launches its next chips, you might want to temper those expectations for Computex 2020.
With recent news that Taiwan has seen its cases jump a little, we’d be surprised if Computex 2020 went ahead in June this year.
The CEO of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), the organisation which runs Computex, has cited it will continue to monitor the events and that trade shows in Taiwan are safe, but we’d be surprised if this one went ahead overall.
June is a ways away, so we clearly have some time, but if the coronavirus only gets worse, we don’t hold much hope for this one staying on, and for companies to pull out, which would eventually force TAITRA’s hand.
What will happen if tech trade shows are cancelled?
Tech trade shows form a bit of a backbone for news and releases in both tech and games, but it doesn’t mean the technology will stall. Far from it.
While shows are being cancelled and postponed, companies will still very likely release products, using the power of video and press to talk up the products in the way they typically do anyway.
A reduction in technology shows will change the way journalists do hands-on and get a guide of what the products are like ahead of time, but shouldn’t prevent new technology or titles from being released, and we could see other ways for industries to change the way trade shows occur.
In an age of telecommuting where most of us can work remotely from our computers with internet access from practically anywhere, it can be particularly surprising that not all of these shows are live-streamed, and force attendance to get the latest news. However we could see technological disruption of trade shows in 2020, especially as health concerns affect the real-life running of said events.
As such, while it’s possible that we’ll see breakthroughs into beating the coronavirus faster than expected, we imagine technology companies will harness the power of video conferencing for their announcements, possibly shipping examples of those exciting product stories to their local divisions so journalists won’t have to travel too far to provide hands-on reporting.
One thing’s for sure: 2020 will likely be a departure from the traditional approach for journalists to fly out to check the latest technology.
UPDATE: We’re updating this page as time goes on, particularly when announcements are made about events and cancellations.