There are always winners and losers, and the COVID-19 pandemic was no different. In many ways, the gaming industry managed to excel economically and culturally during the pandemic while other sectors sank. The gaming industry was valued at approximately $179 billion at the end of 2020, up from $160 billion in 2019. It didn’t just survive – it experienced exceptional growth. But that’s not the whole picture. There were parts of the gaming industry that struggle too. Here’s a look at the winners and losers of the gaming industry in 2020.
With widespread “stay at home” orders, people were forced to spend more time indoors than ever before. And what do you do when you’re stuck inside? You play games. In the US, the gaming audience grew to 28 million people since March 2020. Mobile gaming jumped up 28% in the US and 50% in the UK. Big things were happening on consoles too. EA’s FIFA added 7 million new players in their second quarter of 2020, double the number of players they added the year before.
Games that got us through the pandemic
So, what games were these new gamers playing? Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons became a bestseller during the pandemic and played a considerable role in the gaming industry’s massive 35% growth in March 2020 compared with March 2019. Nintendo reported $1.4 billion in profits in their second quarter (when most of the world went into lockdown). This was a whopping five times more than it made in the same quarter of 2019.
Other popular games got people through long weeks indoors. OSRS (Old School RuneScape) was an instant hit shortly after it launched in March 2020 and continued to grow in popularity over the summer. It had 30 million active OSRS account holders in March, and by August, this was up to 75 million active players. Not only OSRS had its shine, Escape from Tarkov got a lot of attention too. After the wipe, a lot of players started to rush in, and buying an EFT account became popular to do amongst the gamers.
While the gaming industry did weather the pandemic’s storm better than most, it wasn’t positive across the board. Many subsets of the industry did struggle.
Let’s start with the biggest. It should come as no surprise that the esports industry took a massive hit during the pandemic. It’s a sector that thrives on live events with stadiums packed full of people. In other words, a virus’s dream come true. As a result, almost all live events had to be canceled or postponed.
Here’s a snapshot of just some of the events that were either canceled or postponed due to the pandemic:
- Bandai Namco world tour events
- Fortnite World Cup 2020
- Tokyo Game Show 2020
- Tekken 7 World Tour circuit
- China’s League of Legends Pro League
- Dota 2 The International 2020
- PUBG 2020 Global Series
Canceling live events had a substantial economic hit on the esports industry. It’s not just people in chairs that bring in money, but all the other things that happen at live events. Sponsorships, catering, merchandise, VIP tickets, and so on all took a hit.
However, it wasn’t all bad for esports either. With many traditional sporting events canceled, esports did manage to bridge the entertainment gap at times by providing minimal and remote esports coverage. For example, Riot Games’ League of Legends Championship Series maintained most of their original schedule by switching to a remote-only broadcast. Rocket League games also managed to maintain their tournaments and make them frequent.
Delays, delays, delays
With game development companies forced to switch to remote working, there were some inevitable hiccups. Game development was hit hard for many companies, and as a result, many games were postponed. Far Cry 6 was postponed indefinitely during the pandemic, and it is currently planned to be released before September 30, 2021. Halo Infinite was also pushed back from the fall of 2020 to Fall 2021. Breath of The Wild fans were also disappointed not to get an update from Nintendo on the highly anticipated sequel still in development. Although no firm date was ever given for this game, fans were expected to have more information by now. This drive for more details is partly spurred by concern over Nintendo’s admission that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted their development pipeline.
With supply chains severely hit during the pandemic, gamers found it hard to get their hands on the hardware they wanted. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X experienced stock issues. Even the Nintendo Switch experienced stock issues when many people raced to buy a Switch after being enticed by Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Additionally, gamers wanting to get their hands on PC hardware from NVIDIA and AMD also struggled.
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Cole Keister.
Source: Simone Liedtke (Engineering News) / Facebook for Business / John Glenday (The Drum) / Adam Epstein (WEF) / Sam Desatoff (GameDaily) Ryan Browne (CNBC) / Imogen Beckhelling (RPS) / Luke Plunkett (Kotaku)