Potential Coronavirus Geek Convention Impact in 2020

The potential impact of the Coronavirus on the convention circuit is rapidly changing, but companies have pulled out of several cons, with others being seriously considered. 

The Coronavirus has already impacted several geek culture-related events, including the Overwatch League Match in Shanghai and South Korea, as well as causing the closure of two Disney theme parks in Asia. Disney is also currently monitoring several Walt Disney World employees who had been to Italy, where there has been a sharp uptick in cases the past several days.

Earlier this month, the Mobile World Conference, scheduled to be taking place right now in Barcelona, was canceled due to the Coronavirus.

With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.

We speculated that it could have an impact on the United States convention circuit last month when the Overwatch League matches and Disney theme parks were effected in Asia, but so far two of the major cons of the season in the United States – Toy Fair New York and C2E2 – have not been majorly disrupted. The Toy Fair happened last weekend and C2E2 begins later this week.

Reed Exhibitions, which operates C2E2 and several other conventions, put out a statement about their current plans:

Unless otherwise advised, our events are taking place as scheduled.

Our current status with regard to the COVID‐19 virus remains unchanged: the health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors and staff is our number one priority.

We strongly urge our exhibitors and visitors to refer to the guidelines and protocols as suggested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  and local /national public health authorities regarding the virus.

If you have any concerns that you may get caught up in an inbound or outbound quarantine, or are feeling unwell, you may want to reconsider your attendance at the event.


Customers who wish to participate in our events and who are not impacted by travel restrictions are free to do so. Travel advice and entry guidelines varies from country to country. Our event attendees are encouraged to check the latest travel advice and entry guidelines for the country to which they wish to travel before making arrangements. Several countries have imposed travel restrictions to and from mainland China.

We are monitoring the situation very closely and will follow up with customers as the situation develops.

The next convention The Geekiary will be attending will be Emerald City Comic Con, which is also run by Reed Exhibitions. The convention is scheduled to continue at this time, just like the other Reed Exhibitions conventions. We have no coverage plan changes for said convention at this time. 

However, some exhibitors at Emerald City Comic Con have had trouble getting shipments for convention exclusives merchandise in time for the con due to the Coronavirus disrupting manufacturing and shipping from China.

In the world of gaming conventions, Sony withdrew from PAX East, though the rest of the convention is scheduled to continue as normal. Sony also pulled out of the upcoming Gaming Developers Conference scheduled for March 16th through the 20th. EA, Facebook, Kojima Productions, and Kowloon Nights have also pulled out of GDC.

Some have encouraged both PAX East and GDC to cancel the events all together, though no North America conventions or geek-related gatherings have been outright canceled at this time.

One of the biggest conventions on the horizon is San Diego Comic-Con, which is a little under five months out right now, has also been discussed in regards to potential studio pullout. The convention annually draws more than 130,000 fans from around the world to San Diego, as well as drawing big-name studios and celebrities from film, television, comics, gaming, and other related industries.

TV Line reached out to several people in the industry specifically about SDCC, and found that many are already discussing the possibility of pulling out, though for many it was ‘too soon’ to make a decision.

TVLine has spoken to executives at several major Hollywood studios who confirmed they are monitoring the situation closely and are not ruling out the possibility of pulling out of the fan convention, although a final decision likely won’t come down until spring. […]

“There’s obviously concern,” said one unnamed exec at a major studio. “For now we’re taking a wait-and-see approach.”

A second studio exec who also requested anonymity noted that Comic-Con is still five months away and the coronavirus’ Stateside impact remains largely unknown. As a result, it’s “too soon” to speculate about any potential SDCC strategy shift.

TV Line also spoke to representatives from Comic-Con International, who stated they were monitoring the situation closely with local officials. CCI has not made any public statements regarding the con at this time, though I doubt they would do so this early. Even the Olympics, which is scheduled for the same time frame, is holding off until the end of May to finalize a decision. I would speculate that SDCC would have a similar announcement schedule.

As always, we will continue to report on how the virus effects geek culture and theme park-related news, though we may not report on unrelated developments. We recommend keeping an eye on the CDC page devoted to the Coronavirus for the most up-to-date information.

As of Wednesday, February 26th, there are over 81,100 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus across six continents with the bulk of the confirmed cases (78,191) in China. There have been 2,718 deaths in China due to the illness, with an additional 43 deaths elsewhere. More than 38 countries have confirmed cases of the disease at this time.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.

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