Lockdown procedures have meant that many of us have turned to digital forms of entertainment during the coronavirus pandemic. As TV streaming service subscriptions has expectedly seen a boom, as has the gaming industry. Video game creators and console companies have seen a surge in sales as gamers are spending records amounts of time in these online worlds. According to CNBC, Niko partner’s senior analyst, Daniel Ahmand commented on this upward trend, ‘COVID-19 has ultimately helped boost sales as more people are under lockdown and gaming is a safe and low cost form of entertainment”
It seems that gaming has been providing not only a form of much needed entertainment for idle hands but is also a mental tool for catharsis. In a recent report of over 1000 British Gamers, many argued that gaming was actually decreasing anxiety and stress during this difficult time. Many of whom have increased their gaming time, Forbes reported that ‘Over four-fifths of self-declared gamers (84%) have increased their time on their chosen platform, while over a quarter are going to greater extremes: 27% of players are spending an additional five or more hours on games every single day.’
This has inevitably led to an increase in sales and market demand. CNBC reported that ‘Activision Blizzard’s first-person shooter Call of Duty: Warzone, which launched on March 10, saw 30 million players in 10 days.’ Warzone is a hugely popular tactical, first person shooter, Battle Royale game – meaning that players drop into an expansive map, having to collect weapons and resources and participate in a ‘last man standing’ combat experience. Players can play individually in randomized games or in chosen teams of four or less. You can also interact over voice chat whilst doing so, making it a sociable choice during lockdown for a group of friends.
According to Forbes, ‘A new survey from cybersecurity expert BullGuard and custom PC builder Chillblast found that three-quarters of gamers are spending more money on gaming–and nearly one in five (17%) admitted to paying a whopping £100 ($123) more every month on “in-game purchases, new games, hardware or other related items”.’ This data is also reflected in US figures, CNBC reported that in March, consumers were spending approximately 65% more on video games compared to the previous year.
One game that has shown tremendous popularity has been Nintendo’s latest installment of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Selling more than 1.8 million copies in its first three days of release in Japan the game publication Famitsu reported. And in the UK, it apparently sold more copies in the first week than all previous releases of the series combined. According to Eurogamer: ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons, meanwhile, sold 11.77m copies in just 12 days until the end of March, when figures for this round of financial reporting cut off. It’s a stratospheric launch and one that makes it the fastest-selling Switch game to date.’
In a time where social distancing has been a difficult but necessary part of the coronavirus response. Animal Crossing is quite aptly, a ‘social simulation’ game. The premise involves your avatar arriving on an island inhabited by various animals, it is an open-ended world that allows for exploring, building and socializing. Players can find resources, collect items, sell goods, build houses, go fishing, hang out with other players and undertake challenges. It has been a popular choice for many years and apparently the pandemic has enhanced that popularity.
Piers Harding-Rolls, research director for games at Ampere Analysis, told CNBC: “A game like Animal Crossing is an antithesis to the difficulties that many people are suffering from the coronavirus outbreak, so has appealed to a lot of people because of that.”
The success of the game, alongside other releases such as Pokémon Sword and Shield, which also saw record breaking sales, selling a combined total of 17.37m copies, has also led to increasing sales of the Nintendo Switch. According to EuroGamer ‘Nintendo shifted a further 21m Switch consoles worldwide, up 24 per cent year on year, boosting the Switch’s lifetime hardware sales total to 55.77m. Software-wise, 169m Switch games were sold over the past year – up 42 per cent year on year. Total Switch game sales now stand at 356m.’
Many online games on popular consoles offer an opportunity to socialize with friends in a relaxed and entertaining environment. Recent reports have shown that video-calls can create a sense of fatigue and to combat this, socializing with friends in a more informal environment, such as playing a game may be beneficial. Gaming has provided an optimal platform combining socialization and fun, which has benefited the industry in lockdown, in addition to gamers having more time to play. Although some in the industry fear that this is only a short-term boom, as many return to work as lockdowns end, sales and demand may fall.