Impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on the video game industry

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The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic has had a substantial impact on the video game industry. The video game industry was impacted by the outbreak in various ways, most often due to concerns over travel to and from China or elsewhere, or related to slowdowns in manufacturing processes within China.

Overview[edit]

In contrast to many other economic sectors drastically affected by the pandemic, the video game industry was generally more resilient to the pandemic. Most video game developers, publishers, and operators were able to maintain operations with employees working from home as to sustain game development and digital releases. Further, with many people globally at home and unable to work, online gaming saw record numbers of players during the pandemic as a popular activity to counter social distancing, a practice recommended by the World Health Organization,[1] which helped to boost revenues for many companies.[2][3]

There were still negative impacts on the industry, notably with major trade events like the E3 2020 cancelled or postponed, which may impact relationships between smaller developers and publishers. Further, many esport leagues had to alter plans for their games, transitioning from live events to remote play or cancellation altogether. The origin of the pandemic in China is also expected to impact supply chains for electronics for the year which may limit hardware availability once the pandemic has relaxed. This may impact plans for Microsoft and Sony to release their next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, in the latter part of the year.[4]

Events affected by pandemic[edit]

Competitions[edit]

  • The Overwatch League, having planned to being homestead events in its 2020 season, cancelled those occurring in China and moved them to later in the season to South Korea. Some of the China-based teams relocated their training groups to Korea or elsewhere as well.[5] Later, Blizzard cancelled and rescheduled those South Korean matches due to the spread of the coronavirus to that country.[6]
  • The League of Legends Championship Series opening was indefinitely postponed.[7]
  • The live Rocket League World Championship for its 9th season, planned in April 24, 2020 in Dallas, was indefinitely postponed.[8]
  • ESL Pro League Season 11, a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament, was originally going to be an offline event, with the finals taking place at Denver, Colorado, United States. However, due to the global coronavirus pandemic, ESL announced that the both the regular season and the finals will be split into two regions: Europe and North America, and that regular season and the finals will be played entirely online.[9]

Other events[edit]

  • The Taipei Game Show, planned from February 6–9, 2020, was postponed until June 25–28, 2020.[10][11]
  • The Mobile World Congress, to have been held in Barcelona, Spain in March 2020, was cancelled as several of the China-based vendors had to cancel plans.[12]
  • Several vendors withdrew or scaled back plans to present at PAX East in Boston at the end of February 2020, including Sony Interactive Entertainment, Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Capcom, CD Projekt, and PUBG Corporation.[13][14][15][16]
  • Similarly, several companies pulled out from the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco in March 2020, forcing the organizers to postpone the show until later in 2020.[17][18] However, the event organizers devised a scheme to run the GDC as a virtual conference following a similar schedule across the same set of days using streaming services, with a subset of the planned events presented through streaming media and made available online a week later. This included the Game Developers Choice Awards and Independent Games Festival presentations.[19]
  • The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said as of early March 2020 that it was still planning to hold E3 2020 despite states of emergencies declared in both California and Los Angeles Counties.[20] However, on March 11, 2020, the ESA affirmed they had cancelled the physical E3 show amid fears of the outbreak, through were looking to arrange for virtual presentations from its exhibitors.[21]
  • The 16th British Academy Games Awards, normally presented at a ceremony in London, were moved to a live streamed event due to concerns over the coronavirus.[22]
  • Other game-related conventions, expositions, and trade shows that were cancelled or postponed included: South by Southwest planned in Austin, Texas in March,[23] the Emerald City Comic Con planned for Seattle, Washington in March,[24] TwitchCon Europe planned for Amsterdam in May,[25] and the Minecraft Festival planned in Orlando, Florida in September 2020.[26] The SXSW Gaming Awards were still awarded though an online announcement in March 2020.[27]

Hardware and software releases[edit]

  • Some games were delayed due to the virus such as the Nintendo Switch version of The Outer Worlds.[28]
  • Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch, which involves physical activity using special accessories, had seen high demand in China as a result of the quarantine as residents sought something for physical activity, leading to shortages and price gouging in the Asia and nearby regions.[29] Similar shortages for the game expanded as quarantines and stay-at-home orders came to many Western locations during the month of March 2020.[30]
  • At GameStop in the United States, Doom Eternal was released a day prior to its official release date, to separate crowds from those purchasing Animal Crossing: New Horizons (as both games were officially released on March 20).[31]
  • AFL Evolution 2 will be released on April 16, 2020, a week prior to its original release date. To reduce physical contact, physical copies of the game will initially be sold through online retailers only.[32]

Hardware production[edit]

  • Nintendo Switch production in Vietnam had been scaled back due to reduced supply of components out of China due to production slowdown from the quarantines. As a result, supplies of the Switch were significantly reduced in Japan and with retailers fearing similar shortages in Europe and North America.[33]
  • Nintendo of America closed its repair centers as a preventative measure. The company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington and the flagship store in New York City were also closed.[34]
  • Valve announced that its production on the Valve Index virtual reality headset was reduced due to the impact of the coronavirus, and would have fewer shipments expected than planned by the release of Half-Life: Alyx.[35]
  • Konami delayed release of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini in March due to production chain issues in China due to the coronavirus.[36]
  • Atari delayed the Atari VCS that was initially supposed to release in March 2020 due to the coronavirus.[37]

Sales[edit]

  • 2012 game Plague Inc. by Ndemic Creations saw a large boost in sales as a result of the coronavirus. The game had temporarily become the top-paid app on several regional app stores beating out the perennial Minecraft. Some analysts believe those that those worried about the coronavirus have used the game to see it could spread as a means to placate their fears.[38] While the game was based on scientific models of the spread of contagious diseases, Ndemic had to remind players the game was not meant to be taken as an accurate model for transmission and spread and referred those interested to the Centers for Disease Control and other national and international health organization websites.[39][40] Later, Ndemic added a new gameplay mode to Plague Inc, with the goal to try to stop an ongoing pandemic through various possible options, using work it had developed in coordination with WHO and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. Further, Ndemic donated US$250,000 to the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to help fight the pandemic and encouraged players of the game to do the same.[41]
  • The 2018 digital adaption of Pandemic by Asmodee saw sales boosts.[38]

Retailers[edit]

  • The North American video game chain GameStop and its Canadian subsidiary EB Games came under criticism for its overall response to the coronavirus pandemic. Notably, it received widespread criticism when, after numerous states and provinces issued "stay at home" or "shelter in place" orders requiring non-essential businesses to close up starting in March 2020, that it considered its stores an essential business, stating they provided a "significant need for technology solutions". The chain later revised this decision, closing most locations and leaving only select stores open to provide drive-up delivery of online or by-phone orders to customers.[42][43] [44][45]

Industry support of mitigation and relief efforts[edit]

References[edit]

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