The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on the world. As well as causing mass lockdowns, it has also put the brakes on the entertainment industry. Numerous movies have been delayed and television shows ground to a halt. One element, though, that has seemingly been less affected is the gaming industry.
Although some titles were delayed over the course of 2020, the gaming world rolled on. Sony and Microsoft even released next-gen consoles in the form of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. But that doesn’t mean that COVID-19 has not taught us some important things about the gaming industry over the last 12 months. Here is everything we’ve learned about the gaming industry since the global pandemic.
Games are helping researchers combat the virus
Although video games are often seen as nothing but recreational, they have proved to be useful research aids. EVE Online has included mini-games that are based on identifying different cell populations. This has helped researchers analyze how the virus attacks and changes the immune system.
This has also been the case with older titles like World of Warcraft. A digital pandemic called Corrupted Blood that caused widespread carnage in the MMO in 2005 has helped epidemiologists model how viruses can spread. This was especially helpful in terms of modeling how individuals react to quarantine measures.
“What I do is study all the aspects of infectious disease outbreaks that help us prepare for pandemics,” epidemiologist Dr. Nina Fefferman told The Washington Post in April 2020. “We really saw the full gamut of behaviors we see in the real world reflected in the player characters during Corrupted Blood.”
Developers can work from home with little disruption
Despite the fact that many might consider working in the games industry a dream job, that is not always the case. Many developers work unsociable hours, spending huge amounts of time away from their families. This is even more true during crunch phases near to the launch of a game.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that it is certainly possible for many staff to work from home. Although there is some disruption, most games that have utilized remote work have released on time. This could lead to a shift in the gaming industry where developers can spend more time working from home.
Industry events are not all that important
Industry events, such as conventions and press conferences, are usually seen as hugely important. They are ways for publishers and developers to announce games, show off trailers, and generally promote their releases.
With COVID-19 forcing almost all physical events to be canceled, companies have had to rethink strategies. What the pandemic has taught us, then, is that these events are not essential. Moving to digital conventions works just as well and even allows more people to engage in demos and trailers. This could very well be the new norm in the future.
Game streaming is becoming a leading form of entertainment
One industry that has seen a huge boost over the last 12 months is game streaming. With people stuck inside, many younger individuals have taken to watching high-profile streamers. Rather than sit down and binge-watch a TV series or get stuck into blockbuster movies, Twitch streams are the go-to.
This has also contributed to a rise in the popularity of eSports. More people than ever are tuning in to watch the best players in the world. If there was any doubt before, it is now clear that streaming is a huge and growing business.
Streamers can make or break a game
2020 was a year of surprises when it came to hit video games. The likes of Fall Guys and Among Us have become hugely popular, despite little being known about them. What helped to launch both to financial and critical success was streaming.
The fact that both titles are streamer-friendly and ideal for watching others play has certainly helped their popularity. This is even more clear in the case of Among Us, which was originally released in 2018. Before it began to be streamed, the title was an obscure game hardly anyone knew about. But now it is one of the biggest success stories of 2020.
The game industry is going from strength to strength
Even before 2020, it was clear that the video game industry was likely to become the dominant force in entertainment. It has been steadily growing for more than a decade, catching and surpassing the revenue of other industries.
The COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to stay indoors and find new forms of entertainment might have accelerated this. Subscription services like Xbox Game Pass have grown significantly while Nintendo has found renewed success with the Switch. Many new games have broken new records and spending on digital games has risen by a large margin. In March 2020, people spent more on digital games than ever before ($10 billion) as lockdowns kept us inside.
Games are a useful tool for child learning
One of the biggest problems that COVID-19 has caused is how to allow educate children during a pandemic. Schools around the world have closed for extended periods of time throughout the year. This has left many kids having to learn from home with limited resources. Many teachers have taken to using video games as an educational tool. Titles like Minecraft have already been used in the classroom.
But the need to create fun and engaging learning environments is more important now than ever before. That could very well mean that games will be used by schools more and more in the future. Especially when it comes to remote learning.
Games offer a great way to explore different locations
In a similar way to how games are being used as a learning tool, they can also prove helpful in exploring the world. Titles like Minecraft let users build representations of real-world locations or even historical places. Meanwhile, there are many other titles that pride themselves on being almost perfect virtual recreations of real-life places.
Take Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, for example, which has a fairly accurate in-game world based on Ancient Greece. When traveling to different countries and environments is currently almost impossible, games offer a viable alternative.
Although vaccines have been developed and are beginning to be released, the pandemic will have a lasting effect on the gaming industry. For now, the best way to escape reality may be to jump inside a video game.