Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony said Wednesday that it will not participate in next week’s PAX East gaming exposition at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
Sony announced its decision in a post on its PlayStation blog:
“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”
In response, PAX East organizers vowed that the show would go on, but with extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are working closely with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and following local, state, and federal public health guidelines,” the organizers said on the PAX website. “While we are saddened that Sony will no longer have a presence at PAX East 2020, we look forward to welcoming our friends at Sony to future PAX events and are focused on making PAX East 2020 a successful and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.”
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker addressed Sony’s decision during an event in Roxbury.
“Well, I certainly believe that everybody is being exceedingly cautious, as they should be, with respect to the potential spread of the coronavirus,” Baker said, according to a transcript provided by the governor’s office, but cautioned that “we are at extremely low risk here.”
Sony is but the latest major company — and PAX the latest show organizer — to be affected by fears of travel during the coronavirus scare. IBM and several other companies have backed out of attending the cybersecurity industry’s major annual conference, hosted by the Massachusetts firm, RSA, scheduled for next week in in San Francisco. Social media titan Facebook cancelled a marketing summit set for next month. And last week, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the biggest annual event devoted to wireless phone technology, was cancelled altogether after dozens of companies pulled out.
PAX East is one of the nation’s largest gatherings devoted to computer and board games. Hosted in Boston since 2010, it routinely attracts tens of thousands of visitors.
An influenza-like infection that erupted in central China starting late last year, the coronavirus has infected tens of thousands of people in 26 countries so far, though mostly in China. There have been more than 2,000 documented deaths related to the illness. Only one case has occurred in Massachusetts so far — a University of Massachusetts Boston student who had traveled from Wuhan, China, but is now recovering at home and out of danger.
“We have been taking every precaution to keep our city and our residents healthy and safe," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement. "We are confident that through the Boston Public Health Commission’s work with our state and federal partners, Boston is a safe place to host events like this one.”
The owner of the Boston hall, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, expressed its regret about Sony’s withdrawal in a statement late Wednesday. “While it is unfortunate that an exhibitor of PAX East has decided not to participate in this year’s event because of their own internal travel policies, the PAX East event and all other events are proceeding as planned,” the MCCA said.