Gaming in the Age of the Coronavirus

Many of those who predicted 2020 will be the year of… something were proven wrong by nature: it is clearly the age of coronavirus. The disease that emerged in China last December has quickly spread to pretty much every country around the world, leading to canceled events and strict measures all over the place. Pretty much all industries relying on people leaving their homes are now in distress, while “stay at home” businesses are seeing a surge in demand for them.

Social networks, online streaming services, and the video gaming industry is feeling the effects of the coronavirus outbreak: they see their sales and usage numbers go up as people are confined to their homes in many countries around the world. The gaming industry is in a love-hate relationship with the current situation, though.

Canceled events

On one hand, some of the most important live events in the gaming industry have been delayed or canceled due to the outbreak. Among them, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the event where game developers and hardware manufacturers alike traditionally presented some of their latest products and innovations.

There might be a digital-only version of the event but, let’s face it, that won’t be the same. Another major event that was postponed is the Game Developers Conference (GDC), set to begin this March, which was moved to August.

The ongoing pandemic has left a mark on the blossoming eSports market as well. While the number of players is high, the major events that brought in the biggest viewership are all canceled or delayed. Among others, the organizers canceled the Overwatch League, the Call of Duty League, the Apex Legends and all EA Sports titles’ live events. Hopefully, the situation will return to normal later in the year.

Game sales are growing fast

On the other hand, the sales of video games are seeing a major boost due to all the people having little else to do while confined to their homes than experiment with how gaming plays into holistic health. On March 15, Steam has seen its highest number of concurrent players on the platform (around 20 million), with @StemDB reporting 6.2 million players in-game at the same time. Since then, this record was beaten several times.

Video game usage in the US is reaching new peaks, according to a report by Verizon: it has seen the usage of its networks for gaming increase by 75% in the last few weeks.

At the same time, some well-timed video games have broken sales records. Doom Eternal, Bethesda’s highly anticipated title, has beaten its 2016 predecessor at sales and concurrent players alike: it has become the most successful title on Steam this week, it attracted more than 100,000 concurrent players on the platform alone, and it has sold more than twice the units. At the same time, a very different game – Animal Crossing: New Horizons – on a very different platform – Nintendo Switch – has broken every single sales record since the inception of the franchise, becoming the single biggest launch in the history of the Switch platform, even beating Doom Eternal at its sales. And Half-Life: Alyx, Valve’s highly-anticipated VR title, has also broken records, becoming perhaps the most successful VR title in recent history.

While some upcoming titles may be delayed due to the ongoing pandemic, and some major events are definitely postponed, the current situation seems overall positive for the video game industry.

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