Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the video game industry

Last updated

The video game industry has been substantially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in various ways, most often due to concerns over travel to and from China or elsewhere, and delays in the manufacturing processes within China.

Contents

Overview

In contrast to many other economic sectors that are drastically affected by the pandemic, the video game industry has been more resilient. Most video game developers, publishers, and operators have been able to maintain operations with employees working from home remotely to sustain game development and digital releases, though as movement control orders persisted, some productivity issues have arisen. [1] With many people globally at home and unable to work, online gaming has observed record numbers of players during the pandemic as a popular activity to counter physical distancing for society, a practice recommended by the World Health Organization [2] that helped boost revenues for many companies in the gaming industry. [3] [4]

There have still been negative impacts on the industry, notably with major trade events like E3 2020 cancelled or postponed which may have impacted relationships between the smaller developers and publishers. This has particularly impacted indie developers who typically use these events for face-to-face meetings with potential partners to gain funding and publishing support, and caused them to have to delay or cancel projects. [5] Many esport leagues had to alter plans for their games, transitioning from live events to remote play or cancellation altogether. Portions of the sector that relied on physical products, such as retail stores and peripheral makers, as well as those dependent on in-person activities such as quality assurance through playtesting, ratings evaluation, and marketing, also struggled with global stay-at-home orders. [6]

As the origin of the pandemic, China is expected to impact the supply chains for electronics, which may limit hardware availability once the pandemic begins to be resolved. However, it did not impact plans for Microsoft and Sony to release the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 respectively in Fall 2020. [7]

Cancelled or affected industry events

Many trade events and expositions for the industry were cancelled or postponed due to bans against public gatherings during the pandemic. E3 2020 was cancelled by March 2020 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). [8] On 11 March 2020, the ESA affirmed that they cancelled the physical event as they were looking to arrange for virtual presentations from its exhibitors, [9] but by April 2020, they determined that the logistics of arranging a virtual event was too difficult due to disruptions from the pandemic, and cancelled the event in 2020, with plans in place to return in 2021. The ESA offered the E3 website to help partners support product announcements in lieu of E3's cancellation. [10] Additional events were arranged to substitute for the trade event, such as Geoff Keighley arranging a four-month Summer Game Fest with several game developers, publishers, and other industry leaders to provide announcements and game demos from May to August 2020. [11]

Other cancelled or postponed events included:

Esports

Most esports events are based on online games, but are typically played in local arenas to reduce network latency between players as well as to provide an audience. The pandemic caused many of these events to either become cancelled or switch to a fully online format for 2020:

While many traditional physical sports games, seasons, and playoffs were cancelled due to the pandemic, the organizing leagues turned to video game equivalents as alternative entertainment, using the professional athletes from their leagues within the games. Some examples of this included:

Television networks which normally would have shown the sporting events that were cancelled have turned to both these replacement sports programs as well as other esport tournaments as replacement programming during the pandemic. [98] On 14 June 2020, the BBC reported that about 22 million sports viewers turned to virtual races when lockdowns were implemented. Questions over the future of esports rose with Formula 1 returning in July 2020. [101] [102]

Hardware production

Sales

Generally, sales of video games have increased as a result of stay-at-home and lockdown orders from the pandemic, as people turned to video games as a pastime. [1] The NPD Group reported that video game sales in North America in March 2020 were up 34% from those in March 2019, and video game hardware up by 63% – which included more than twice the number of units of the Nintendo Switch console. Net spending across the first quarter of 2020 in the United States reached US$10.9 billion, up 9% in 2020 compared to 2019 according to NPD. An increase at this point, near the planned end of the eighth generation of video game consoles,was unusual and was attributed to the pandemic. [110] [111] By July 2020, NPD Group reported that the total sales of video game hardware and software within the United States in the first six months of 2020 reached US$6.6 billion, the highest since 2010. [112]

Some specific examples of game software and hardware sales affected by the pandemic include:

Hardware and software releases

Game publishers and developers have expressed concerns that further extensions of the movement control orders from the pandemic may incur additional delays. One major factor that may cause delays is the ability to capture voice acting without access to studios during physical distancing for society, even though some of members have considered working from residence remotely to avoid troubling situations. [1] An example of this happened with the Western release of Persona 5 Strikers whose voice acting in English was meant to start in April 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic. The actors later received audio equipment from Atlus so that they could work at home. [220]

Services

As much of the world's population have been quarantined due to the pandemic, video game playing and other Internet use has increased significantly. Steam had over 23 million concurrent players during March 2020, surpassing all previous records [221] while over three billion hours of content were watched on Twitch over the first quarter of 2020, a 20% increase from the previous year's. [222] Microsoft reported a substantial increase in users of its Xbox Game Pass service in the months of March and April 2020, bringing it to over 10 million subscribers. [223] GeForce Now capacity was temporarily exhausted in Europe before additional server capacity was added. [224]

The additional bandwidth from video games and other Internet services created concerns that critical bandwidth would not be available for medical and other key infrastructure elements necessary to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2. [225] To help reduce demand during peak hours, the Akamai content delivery network for many video games [226] and major digital storefronts such as Xbox Live, [227] PlayStation Network, [228] [229] and Steam [230] capped download speeds and encouraged the users to download at off-peak hours.

During quarantine and lockdown, Ubisoft announced an update for Just Dance 2020 to keep players active: [231] customers who owned the game could access a month of the Just Dance Unlimited service. [231] Ubisoft also announced in its official forum that the second event entitled "Power Gala", which was part of the second season "Feel the Power" in Just Dance 2020, had been postponed. [232] The developer explained that the company wanted to protect its team due to the pandemic, and that "although [their] team still work[ed] hard to make our servers work as smoothly as possible at home", this needed to be resolved by postponing the content. [232] Two tracks from Just Dance Unlimited were made free to make up for the delay. [233]

Retailers

Industry trade bodies

The Japanese game ratings body Computer Entertainment Rating Organization was forced to close operations from early April through 7 May, and upon reopening, implemented appropriate controls that reduced work hours, which is expected to delay some releases in Japan as they await a rating for retail release. [240] [241]

Industry support of mitigation and relief efforts

With the need to stay inside one's home to avoid infection, many gamers flocked to online games as a substitute for social interactions they would otherwise miss. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was especially particular, with people around the world turning to the game's recreation of ordinary daily life activities and social networking features as a substitute for the normalcy disrupted by the pandemic. [255] [256] [257] [258] Fall Guys and Among Us were particularly popular during this time, with the former being released during the pandemic and the latter receiving a surge of popularity. [259] [260] [261] [262] Some non-online games were also thematically compared to the pandemic, such as The Longing . [263] Microsoft Flight Simulator, first released in August 2020, has been considered popular during the pandemic, as many saw it as a safer alternative to traveling. [264] [265] [266] [267]

Notable deaths

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2017 saw the release of numerous video games as well as other developments in the video game industry. The Nintendo Switch console was released in 2017, which sold more than 14 million units by the end of 2017, exceeding the underperforming Wii U lifetime sales, and helped to revitalize Nintendo, alongside the "retro" Super NES Classic Edition console, the refreshed New Nintendo 2DS XL handheld, and a strategy for mobile gaming. Microsoft also released the higher-powered Xbox One X targeted for 4K resolutions and virtual reality support.

Rocket League Championship Series Video game tournament series

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The 2020 international cricket season took place from May to September 2020. 15 Test matches, 49 One Day Internationals (ODIs) and 40 Twenty20 International (T20Is) were scheduled to be played during this period, as well as 8 Women's One Day Internationals (WODIs) and 9 Women's Twenty20 Internationals (WT20Is). Additionally, a number of other T20I/WT20I matches were also scheduled to be played in minor series involving associate nations. The season started with Australia leading the Test cricket rankings, England leading the ODI rankings and Australia leading the Twenty20 rankings.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the film industry in 2020 and 2021, mirroring its impacts across all arts sectors. Across the world and to varying degrees, cinemas and movie theaters have been closed, festivals have been cancelled or postponed, and film releases have been moved to future dates or delayed indefinitely. Due to cinemas and movie theaters closing, the global box office has dropped by billions of dollars, streaming has seen a significant increase in popularity and the stock of film exhibitors has also dropped dramatically. Many blockbusters originally scheduled to be released since mid-March 2020 have been postponed or canceled around the world, with film productions also halted. This, in turn, has created openings for independent cinema productions to receive wider exposure.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sports

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Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on television Impact of coronavirus on television

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the television industry, mirroring its impacts across all arts sectors, shutting down or delaying production of television programs in many countries with consequent negative impacts on revenues and employment.

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Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on television in the United States Impact of coronavirus on television in the United States

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In the video game industry, 2022 is expected to see the release of many new video games. The numerous delays in software and hardware releases due to the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted development schedules, leading to many games being delayed into this year or indefinitely.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cricket Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cricket

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to cricket across the world, mirroring its impact across all sports. Across the world and to varying degrees, leagues and competitions have been cancelled or postponed.

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Economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada Overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian economy

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COVID-19 cases at the 2020 Summer Olympics and 2020 Summer Paralympics COVID-19 at the 2020 Summer Olympics and the 2020 Summer Paralympics

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