Gaming In The Time Of COVID-19

Covid-19 effects video games

Right now the worldwide spread of Coronavirus has meant that a lot of people are spending much more time at home than they usually would. Lots of people are now not only realizing how easy it is to work from home, but also how much there is available to do when you are stuck inside – especially when it comes to video games.

It seems that the time gamers have been prepping for their whole lives is upon us, with a legally enforced quarantine keeping many indoors. Many video game fans are now finding that their life long hobby is just the thing to keep them going through this time of isolation.

One thing many might not have prepared for though is the long term effects that this virus has had on the hobby. This article hopes to look through a few of the different ways in which gaming has been affected by the Coronavirus, and what it means for the industry as a whole.

Video Game Development

Right now there hasn’t been that much in the way of cancellations or delays due to the Coronavirus’ effect on video game studios. In fact, many different developers, publishers and overall video game studio's reactions to the Coronavirus have been incredibly timely, allowing for their workers to go home, self isolate, and work on different titles from that level of safety. Microsoft, Sony, Bethesda and more are all working from home at the moment, with many more encouraging the scheme as time goes by.

One game that did see a setback concerning its release date was The Outer Worlds. Sadly, the office that was responsible for the Nintendo Switch port of the game in Singapore was closed down due to the virus, pushing back the initial release date from March 6th.

One piece of unexpected good news came from Square Enix, and their highly anticipated Final Fantasy 7 remake. Due to the developers wanting to avoid any major distribution disruption from COVD-19, they have shipped the game early to both Europe and Australia. Good news for those fans, but Square Enix has been very vocal about telling those lucky enough to get the game early not to spoil it, as it does contain brand new content and late entry spoilers to those who never played the game before.

Luckily (or unluckily, as the case may be?), lots of different games such as Cyberpunk 2099 and Watch Dogs: Legion that were expected to come out this time of year have already been pushed back, so we aren’t expecting any more delays on these titles – but who knows what lies ahead.

Component Manufacture

Out of all the different facets of the gaming industry, the manufacturing of vital hardware needed for gaming has been the most affected. Console production, PC gaming parts, prebuilt gaming PCs; all struck by different production and supply chain issues that have had a direct effect on how the general public has been able to enjoy video games.

If we look at some of the different console developers, we can definitely see a distinct difference in the distribution network both before and after the virus hit. Take Nintendo for example. They have been very vocal about how the virus has affected their ability to produce their Switch consoles at a rate that meets demand.

In fact, so little has been the output when it comes to Switch consoles, that the average selling price of a Switch has risen by around 40% - a price hike that has been widely panned by Nintendo and the marketplace alike, as it seems to be taking advantage of the pandemic.

Of course, the launch of Animal Crossing was mired with these COVID related production issues – the incredibly popular Animal Crossing themed Switch had to extend its initial production time due to factories and production lines being hit with understandable delays.

What might be surprising though, is that currently neither Microsoft or Sony are reporting delays to their Xbox Series X console, or the PlayStation 5.

Xbox Series X
Both Microsoft and Sony are reporting no delays to their next gen consoles

This is understandably hard to grasp, seeing as a lot of the production of these consoles is expected to come from China. However, Microsoft at least has confirmed that while they don’t expect production of the new Xbox to be slowed or halted, they are anticipating slower lead times on other products like their Surface range, and amended their PC revenue accordingly.

And while it looks like the next generation of consoles aren’t going to be delayed, you are going to be hard-pressed to find an Xbox One or PS4 in the current climate thanks to the same kind of problems facing Nintendo, and growing market interest in at-home entertainment. While you can still find these consoles available online, its worth remembering that supplies and hardware are going to be increasingly difficult to get a hold of.

Then we come to PC parts. These are, to the shock of nobody, becoming rarer and rarer. Concerning the production of different gaming PC components; it's looking bleak. The production of parts is slowing down, and desirable hardware that might have been hard to buy before the epidemic is now nigh on impossible to source, especially on major sites like Amazon. While we are sure they are still out there to buy, resources may be drying up, and individual stores may be moving to an online-only service as it may be legally required to do so – so make sure that if you are looking to purchase a new PC part you are prepared to put in the time to research where to buy from, or that you're ready to put down a higher amount of cash than you might have done before, or after the COVID epidemic.

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Prebuilt Gaming PC supply chains are at risk

Then we come to prebuilts.

While many individual PC parts might be readily available, different prebuilt gaming PC manufacturers are having a tough time keeping up with demand due to the nature of building a PC. Obviously, these different builders not only have to get their hands on the parts to build the PCs but then they have to travel to a specific location to put them together. This means commuting, exposing themselves to possibly dangerous environments, and an office where they could come into contact with the virus – behavior that has been strongly condemned by health-related authorities and being made illegal in many different countries.

Sadly, that means that prebuilt gaming PCs are still going to be out there, just incredibly difficult to find. Again, keep your eyes and wallet open if you would like to buy a prebuilt PC, but be aware that the growing consumer demand in gaming is going to have its effect on the market.

Coronavirus’ Effect On Gaming Events

One of the main disappointments to come from Coronavirus in the world of gaming is the mass cancellation of all different types of gaming events across the world.

I’m going to talk about two different types of events specifically that have been majorly disrupted by the Coronavirus, beginning with conventions.

Conventions are always a time of massive excitement and community spirit, as industry professionals, journalists, and fans come together not just to celebrate what has happened in the gaming world, but what is going to happen – traditionally games, hardware, and other new releases have all been unveiled at larger conventions like E3, PAX, Gamescom and Computex – but, due to Coronavirus, all of the biggest gaming conventions have sadly been canceled or postponed.

E3
E3 2020 has been cancelled due to the effects of COVID-19

While it’s a decision that is for the greater good, it can be disheartening to some who have been looking forward to their favorite event, or if they finally got tickets for E3 and now they are unable to attend.

Luckily, all is not lost. Most gamers are going to be familiar with the Nintendo Direct method of announcement, where a pre-recorded video unveils all the biggest announcements that Nintendo have at the same time across the web, and it seems that most major publishers, developers, and hardware producers are looking to emulate this type of briefing as time goes on.

Moving on to esports, and it’s a similar story. There have been a lot of cancellations throughout the esports scene. Not just confined to one country, many organizers have made the smart and responsible choice to either postpone or fully cancel their events – which, while upsetting, realistically only means either a delay in play or in some cases, a move to an online-only arena and audience.

To some, this might not sound a lot. Traditional sports fans, for example, might eschew esports as a fad, or not being that important in the grand scheme of things. However, it is worth remembering that esports events are worth roughly $1.09 billion, so their cancellation and disruption will definitely have an effect on overall GDP and revenue rankings for different countries and the games marketplace specifically.

Overwatch League
The popular Overwatch League has moved to an online only format.

Concerning the major events, fans will be disappointed to learn that there have been a few significant tournaments called off. The Overwatch League, for example, has been moved to an online-only system for the entirety of 2020 – canceling their planned March and April homestands.

Then there is DOTA 2, CounterStrike, PUBG, and the many other games that make up ESL, a huge figure within the esports scene. The ESL One scheduled to take place in LA has been postponed with no new date given for when the tournament is due to happen instead. This has, predictably, left a lot of people wanting when it comes to esports, but some have been more optimistic and are speculating that the extra training time for the teams involved could lead to a more intense competition when ESL does eventually bring competitors into the ring.

Coronavirus Related Gaming Statistics

Let's examine gamer behavior during these difficult times, as its always nice to see a community as interconnected as gamers come together in a time of crisis.

I’m going to start by examining a multiplayer staple and PC classic, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (or CS:GO). For those not familiar, let me preface by saying that CS:GO has been out since 2012, and in the past year there haven’t been that many player-drawing, game-changing updates. Nothing that a marketing team could feasibly use, at any rate. So, having said that, let's assume that the game is in the same state it has been for the past year: a popular state, but unchanged.

CS GO
CS:Go has seen a huge rise in players since the beginning of the pandemic

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive received 277,889 more average players in March 2020 than it did in March 2019, which only saw 390,240. That’s an increase of about 71% as far as average players are concerned.

I made the point earlier about CS:GO being a relatively unchanged game just so that you would understand that this dramatic rise in CS:GO’s player base is largely down to the coronavirus. Thanks to a huge number of people being secluded in their homes, the average player numbers in Counterstrike have risen dramatically – and it doesn’t stop there.

Comparing March 2020 to March 2019, again, it's easy to see that the number of peak players on the game is also drastically high: 1,145,972 in 2020 in fact, compared to 680,071 in 2019. A difference of a staggering 465,901 players in total.

Now, with the data available to us, we can observe an upwards trend in the number of players in CS:GO in the months preceding March 2020, but nothing that comes close to the leap in player figures that occur in March. Combine those stats with the fact that most countries began to impose strict measures on their public regarding isolation towards the end of February, and it's easy to see that COVID-19 has encouraged a drastic number of people into (or at least back into) gaming.

It’s not just the gamers alone either that are bolstering the population of games. Fortnite is incredibly popular, nobody can deny that – but it could be argued that it is one of the few games where watching gameplay is almost, if not as popular as actually playing.

Fortnite
Twitch viewing figures for Fortnite have risen by millions

So, what's happening with Fortnite on Twitch? In short, an additional 10 million additional hours were watched in March 2020 than in February. Plus, an additional 15,117 peak viewers and it overtook CS:GO in the rankings to be the third most-watched video game in all of March: not bad for a game just under four years old.

What does this have to do with Coronavirus? Well, lots of different countries going on lockdown means a lot more schools are closing – and with the key demographic of Fortnite being a younger audience, it's easy to make the assumption that a lot of children home from school now have more time to log into Twitch and watch their favorite streamers play Fortnite.

But what about some of the other giants in the gaming industry? Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a massive title at the moment, being the most recent incarnation of the behemoth Call of Duty franchise – and they only recently launched the battle royale segment of the game that saw players fight it out in a brand new arena and game mode.

Within the first two weeks of the game's launch, Call Of Duty Warzone managed to amass over 30 million players.

 

COD Warzone
Call Of Duty Warzone is on track to becoming the fastest growing free to play shooter of all time

Considering that Call Of Duty Warzone can be downloaded separately from Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare, this massive player base makes Warzone one of the fastest-growing free to play games on the market today – in direct competition with giants Fortnite and Apex Legends.

Finally, let's talk about mobile gaming. Mobile gaming is a huge and ever-growing market, especially popular in Asian markets like China and Japan. With that in mind, think about how in China alone 222 million downloads were made in China’s version of the Apple Store alone during one week in February (February 2nd).

This amount of downloads is roughly 40% higher than the average amount for every month in 2019 – a staggering jump in the number of downloads, even if it is just in one location.

These are just some top-line impressions though. With most of the western world only having been in a real state of emergency for roughly a month, we are going to be getting more information very soon, and it will be interesting to see how video game stats are going to impacted throughout March, especially compared against last years figures.

Remember to check back with us as the COVID-19 progresses for more information and facts about how Coronavirus has affected the gaming industry.