How COVID-19 Made Video Games Bigger Than Ever

April 22, 2020

We are continuing to discover news ways that COVID-19 has impacted our communities. Countless people are either out of work or working from home, and many small businesses teeter on the edge of destruction as customers are forced to stay home.

Not every industry is suffering, though. In fact, the video game industry is doing better than ever. How did this happen? We’ve got the full lowdown on how COVID-19 has affected the gaming industry.

The Big Jump

You’ve probably noticed more people on your social media feed talking about playing video games. And it’s not just because of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Thanks to social isolation caused by COVID-19, video game use in the U.S. has increased by a whopping 45%. And this is part of a worldwide trend. France had a 38% jump, the UK had a 29% jump, and Germany had a 20% jump.

All of this data supports something we’ve known all along: video games are a great way to spend your free time. There are no more excuses for ignoring that backlog of unbeaten games in your library!

Start the Download

All of that video game usage has translated to additional spending. For example, 39% of Americans are now spending more money on games than they were before. But not every video game seller is walking away a winner.

Because people are stuck at home, most of these sales are through digital downloads on one platform or another. Part of this is due to simple convenience, and the other part is that brick-and-mortar stores like GameStop are shut down during the crisis.

Before that, though, GameStop got a lot of bad press for their bungled attempt to label themselves as “an essential business.” The company was already planning to close 300 stores this year, and a prolonged shutdown could bring more problems for their business.

What’s Popular?

There are plenty of different games and game types to choose from. Once you learn that game usage is up, the natural question is “what is everybody playing?”

The answer isn’t that surprising: 29% of Nielsen respondents are playing more online games than they have before. Online games serve as a way for gamers to safely interact with other people: a perfect solution for people who feel stuck in the house.

Many users are getting creative with how they play. For example, it’s easy to stream things like Jackbox Games over platforms like Twitch. From there, anyone (friends, family, or even strangers) can play using a smartphone, whether or not they have a copy of the game.

Welcome to the Gaming Family

Before COVID-19, sales of video game consoles were slowing down. This makes a lot of sense: with both Xbox One X and PlayStation 5 arriving by Christmas, many would-be gamers were holding off and waiting to buy the new hotness.

Thanks to the pandemic, though, video game console sales increased by 155%. This matches the increase in game sales: digital downloads increased by 52.9% and physical sales by 82%.

Long story short? It looks like your gaming family just got bigger!

eSports Are Suffering

GameStop isn’t the only games-related business that is striking out during COVID-19. It turns out that the burgeoning eSports industry is really taking a beating.

The Modern Times Group dropped a bombshell on its investors: eSports revenue might drop by as much as 45% thanks to the pandemic. MTG hopes to right their ship when this is all over with a stock buyback plan, but it’s a pretty safe bet that eSports will experience some changes.

Only time will tell whether this seriously halts the momentum of eSports which has been building for the last few years.

A Great Time for Steam…

There are plenty of different ways to download digital copies of games. But the biggest name in the business remains Steam. And thanks to COVID-19, Steam is doing better than ever.

Recently, Steam reached over 20 million concurrent users on their platform. This broke their previous record of 18.8 million concurrent users earlier in the year.

Now, this counts people who are using Steam and not necessarily playing. For example, the highest number of gamers concurrently playing was “only” 6.2 million. But this many people browsing and buying on Steam at once indicates how many people are hungry for new games to play.

…and a Great Time to Stream

What are gamers doing when they aren’t gaming? In many cases, streaming their favorite shows and movies. And that, too, has gone seriously through the roof.

Many streaming platforms saw a serious week-to-week jump as COVID-19 got more serious. Disney + was the real winner, getting 221% more user signups on March 14-16 versus March 7-9.

The popularity of streaming extends to game streamers as well. The coronavirus led to a 24% jump in Twitch viewership. People stuck at home are happy to watch charismatic streamers do their thing. And if nothing else, watching streams is a great way to plot the next game purchase.

Category: Articles

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