There’s no denying that COVID-19 aka Coronavirus has already affected the modern world requiring us to adjust to this new landscape we’ve found ourselves in. When it comes to the recent trends in gaming, they’ve slowly revealed themselves over the past three months. Evidence suggests that gaming in quarantine is the most popular activity of choice during this time. Gaming offers us an escape in such harsh and distressing times. But, where will these newfound trends in gaming take us in the future? What are the longterm effects of Coronavirus on the gaming industry?
How Coronavirus Affects the Future of E3
You have to wonder what the longterm effects of coronavirus on gaming’s biggest yearly convention is going to be, and those who have been paying attention to E3 for the past few years can tell you that the show’s appeal – at least, from a publisher’s standpoint – has been dwindling.
Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have committed themselves to digital presentations until at least August 2021 which spells bad news for events that typically bring in large audiences like E3 and the Game Developer’s conference. Developments with this virus are changing the way we look at everything and the question on everyone’s minds is how will this affect the industry going forward?
Well, if we were to go off of the recent trends alone it would mean going forward these type of digital events could become the new norm and that’s not necessarily a bad thing given that these types of events are now accessible to the average viewer who may have only had a passive interest in gaming. The focus on accessible viewership is the most important thing going forward if we are to ensure we don’t alienate an existing base and a growing new one.
Nintendo, who has long dropped out of these events deferring the spotlight to Sony and Microsoft have been holding their own Nintendo Direct digital presentations for a few years now, and the digital exposure and ease of revealing new and exciting games in this medium has paid off in spades. Nintendo profits have more than tripled as a result of the Coronavirus in comparison to its previous quarter earnings.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, in particular, has no doubt contributed to this given its easy-going charm and life simulator qualities it has been an easy bestseller during a time when quarantine was hitting its hardest. This supports the theory that these record-breaking profits made from sales of hardware and media are being consumed exponentially as a result of the viral outbreak (due to more time on our hands and a newfound willingness to open ourselves up to new experiences at home).
Studios like Activision, Blizzard, and Electronic Arts reported record player numbers in the first three months of 2020 as reported by BBC which is proof that this mass consumption of video games directly correlates to the worldwide outbreak (especially in the U.S.) of the Coronavirus.
With these record-breaking sales, there remains a caveat. Gaming production faces new challenges including production delays and developers report shorter hours and communication struggles while working from home. One of 2020’s biggest releases, The Last of Us: Part Two, was delayed due to the coronavirus and gamers will now have to wait nearly a month which no doubt will either positively or negatively affect the bottom line when it comes to sales of a severely hyped and beloved triple-a series.
While the uptick in current sales reflect the solace we are taking in gaming, it also suggests that this massive consumption comes at a different kind of cost to the bottom line, we simply can’t keep up. Will this new era of gaming keep up in the future? When life inevitably returns to a new normal, I believe there will be a newfound appreciation and fascination for the hard work that goes into the development and production of video games as a whole
The Nintendo Switch faced its own production delays just earlier this year.
Will Coronavirus Cause PS5 and Xbox Series X Delays & More
If you ask Microsoft or Sony whether or not COVID-19 is going to cause a delay in the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, they’ll be quick to reassure you that the consoles are still slated to release in 2020.
However, for those who tend to look at the situation more realistically, you’re likely starting to believe that an Xbox Series X delay and a PS5 delay is inevitable at this point. Not only are there going to be reduced staff for part manufacturers around the world, but there will also be other supply chain issues caused by international shipping bans and restrictions being put into place by shipping companies, themselves.
With the cancellation of these events I must say that the reveal of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X lacked the bombastic showmanship that these live reveals typically possess but the ease of which they were revealed set a precedent for what these kinds of reveals mean for the landscape moving forward. However, with these reveals the question is posed regarding the availability of the next generation due to the production delays that even plague the current generation of consoles like the Nintendo Switch which faced its own production issues just two months ago. Will this next generation face its own similar challenges? It’s a valid question that hasn’t yet been answered. Theoretically, the assumption is valid given the unsure landscape we’ve found ourselves in.
Will the Xbox Series X suffer the same production issues as the Switch? If you ask Microsoft or Sony, they’ll say no. But, in the real world, how could they not?
Another thing to consider when talking about the longterm effects of Coronavirus on the gaming industry is how the current unemployment rate and current economy status will affect the sales of the new consoles, the Xbox Series X and the PS5, this holiday season. If parents aren’t able to be at work earning what they normally earn, it’s probable that they’ll be more conservative this holiday season. And, when the two new consoles are expected to cost over $400, it’s undeniable that sales will be less than if the consoles were to release during a booming economy.
Will the Rise in eSports Viewership Last?
Video games have become the ultimate form of escapism, want proof? Look at the record numbers of streamers and viewers when it comes to online platforms such as Twitch, gaming podcasts, and the rise in esports viewership.
When it comes to esports, in particular, user engagement has seen a boost, giving us the evidence we need to suggest that the pandemic is accelerating the existing trends within the gaming industry. This poses another question, where does that take us as we enter into a new gaming future?
Streaming has been a popular medium since the inception of Twitch; you need to look no further than the incredible successes of streamers such as PewDewPie and Ninja when it comes to viewer engagement and pulling in endorsement deals and establishing a large viewer-base.
But because more people are now stuck at home with nothing else to do, there will be an uptick in new, creative, and original content from both established streamers and newcomers who’ve discovered a love of gaming during this difficult time.
Twitch streaming is on the rise, and for creatives and viewers, this is a good thing.
If we were to define gaming by past trends alone, we couldn’t possibly reconcile with this newfound future without juxtaposing it with the trends outlined above. It’s of great importance to recognize that these new gaming trends that have presented themselves to us and rooted themselves in culture are simply an evolution of what came before.
The Coronavirus is now a very present part of our lives and affects not just our ordinary life but also how we live it. Consumption of media like video games has been proven to be an important part of communication between us as we live this new normal. We are going to be feeling the effects of this virus for years to come and as it subverts our expectations of what this new era of gaming could become. I for one believe that it will be a bright and communicative future where we learn to truly appreciate the digital worlds that have been created and let ourselves find new ways to enjoy it as such.
The Further Decline of GameStop
It’s worth mentioning that the closing of many businesses except those that are considered essential during this pandemic is no doubt a factor in the issue of shortages. GameStop has been a staple of the gaming community for decades and made the controversial decision to stay open as an “essential” business, much to the chagrin of its employees and local lawmakers.
Complaints of lax working conditions and unsafe protocols made many essential workers issue a call to action, and the result was an announcement in March of the closure of its brick and mortar stores, instead of pivoting to curbside pick-up on a digital-only basis.
But, the point is, GameStop was already well on the decline, closing 320 stores globally in 2019 due to a major drop in sales. When that’s paired with the way that GameStop handled the Covid-19 pandemic and the reports of how it has treated its staff, it feels like the final nail in the coffin.
The Rise in Digital Game Purchase Acceptance
With a gaming giant undergoing controversy like this in an unsure time, it’s unsurprising that digital sales are thriving right now during quarantine, with many publishers running sales and specials to encourage us to buy their games digitally. The convenience is unparalleled when safety is paramount.
The push to buy digitally is no doubt something that we will see more of in the future especially during such a tumultuous year. It is worth mentioning, however, that there are still some gamers who don’t feel especially comfortable buying digitally as it poses a tricky question of ownership that removes a certain level of security that comes with buying a physical disc or cartridge.
It’s understandable, but when you have a pandemic going on and want to avoid the store or receiving packages, buying digital seems like a much more attractive idea than it once was.
Just the Beginning
The interesting thing about the shift in video game industry trends as a result of Covid-19 is that it still feels like we’re just in the beginning of the whole thing, right? Who really knows how long stay-at-home orders will last, not to mention the uncertainty of real safety when things do begin to reopen in the future. As we are stuck at home for longer periods, other trends may very well emerge.