Impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on the video game industry
|Part of a series on the|
|2019–20 coronavirus pandemic|
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.
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, which helped to boost revenues for many companies.
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.
Events affected by pandemic
- 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. Later, Blizzard cancelled and rescheduled those South Korean matches due to the spread of the coronavirus to that country.
- The League of Legends Championship Series opening was indefinitely postponed.
- The live Rocket League World Championship for its 9th season, planned in April 24, 2020 in Dallas, was indefinitely postponed.
- 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.
- The Taipei Game Show, planned from February 6–9, 2020, was postponed until June 25–28, 2020.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- Other game-related conventions, expositions, and trade shows that were cancelled or postponed included: South by Southwest planned in Austin, Texas in March, the Emerald City Comic Con planned for Seattle, Washington in March, TwitchCon Europe planned for Amsterdam in May, and the Minecraft Festival planned in Orlando, Florida in September 2020. The SXSW Gaming Awards were still awarded though an online announcement in March 2020.
Hardware and software releases
- Some games were delayed due to the virus such as the Nintendo Switch version of The Outer Worlds.
- 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. Similar shortages for the game expanded as quarantines and stay-at-home orders came to many Western locations during the month of March 2020.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Konami delayed release of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini in March due to production chain issues in China due to the coronavirus.
- Atari delayed the Atari VCS that was initially supposed to release in March 2020 due to the coronavirus.
- 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. 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. 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.
- The 2018 digital adaption of Pandemic by Asmodee saw sales boosts.
- 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. 
Industry support of mitigation and relief efforts
- Nintendo of America donated 9,500 N95-rated face masks for first responders in the Washington state region in March after their facility was shuttered during Washington's stay-at-home program was in place.
- Twitch hosted a 12-hour charity stream on March 28, 2020, to raise money for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The stream featured games, music, and sports celebrities playing games such as Fortnite and Uno.
- Several game publishers worked with WHO to support its "#PlayApartTogether" campaign, encouraging players to continue social engagement in video games via online games instead of through physical means. Participating companies included Activision Blizzard, Big Fish Games, Dirtybit, Glu Mobile, Jam City, Kabam, Maysalward, Playtika, Pocket Gems, Riot Games, SciPlay, Snap Games, Unity Technologies, and YouTube.
- Games Done Quick, a charity-driven event to complete numerous games as fast as possible, had to move its planned June 2020 event due to the pandemic, but instead announced it will run a fully online "Corona Relief Done Quick" event from April 17 to April 19, 2020, with money raised going to Direct Relief.
- Snider, Mike (March 28, 2020). "WHO says play video games as healthy social pastime during coronavirus pandemic". USA Today. Retrieved March 29, 2020.
- Romero, Nick (March 19, 2020). "Game (still) on: How coronavirus is impacting the gaming industry". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
- Howley, Daniel (March 18, 2020). "The world is turning to video games amid coronavirus outbreak". Yahoo!. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
- Powell, Steffan (March 18, 2020). "Animal Crossing, Warzone and the coronavirus impact". BBC. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
- Hume, Mike; Amenabar, Teddy (January 29, 2020). "Coronavirus threatens to upend Overwatch League's plans for international debut". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
- Webster, Andrew (February 24, 2020). "Overwatch League games in South Korea canceled amid coronavirus concerns". The Verge. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
- Kent, Emma (January 30, 2020). "Coronavirus outbreak forces cancellation of multiple esports events". Eurogamer. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
- Makedonski, Brett (March 5, 2020). "Rocket League cancels its World Championship because of COVID-19 concerns". Destructoid. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
- "Season 11 to be played online, finals moved from Denver to studio location". ESL Pro League. 2020-03-11. Retrieved 2020-03-28.
- Chalk, Andy (February 1, 2020). "Taipei Game Show postponed over coronavirus emergency". PC Gamer. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
- Lewis, Mercedez (February 19, 2020). "Taipei Game Show 2020 Confirms Its New Summer Dates". Siliconera. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
- Warren, Tom (12 February 2020). "The world's biggest phone show has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns". The Verge. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
- Cox, Kate (February 21, 2020). "PlayStation cites coronavirus, backs out of multiple major gaming expos". Ars Technica. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
- McWhertor, Michael (February 21, 2020). "Final Fantasy 14 team cancels PAX plans over coronavirus concerns". Polygon. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
- Van Allen, Eric (February 24, 2020). "EA Backs Out of GDC 2020 Over Coronavirus, Says It Will Limit Attendance to Other Events". USGamer. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
- Prescott, Shaun (February 25, 2020). "PAX East loses CD Projekt Red and PUBG Corp amid coronavirus fears". PC Gamer. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
- Cox, Kate (February 28, 2020). "GDC running out of time to cancel as Amazon, Blizzard join no-show list". Ars Technica. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
- Grubb, Jeff (February 28, 2020). "GDC 'postponed' as multiple participants pull out over coronavirus fears". Venture Beat. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
- "Game Developers Conference 2020 announces virtual awards and talk schedule". Gamasutra. March 10, 2020. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
- Spangler, Todd (March 4, 2020). "E3 Organizers 'Actively Assessing' Coronavirus Outbreak, Still Planning to Hold June Event in L.A." Variety. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
- Spangler, Todd (March 11, 2020). "E3 2020 Canceled After 'Overwhelming Concerns' About Coronavirus". Variety. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
- Raindran, Manori (12 March 2020). "BAFTAs to Live Stream Game Awards Amid Coronavirus Fears". Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
- "SXSW 2020 Has Been Cancelled Following Coronavirus Fears". 2020-03-06. Retrieved 2020-03-06.
- Oxley, Dyer (March 6, 2020). "Emerald City Comic Con 2020 has been postponed". KUOW. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
- Hitt, Kevin (March 6, 2020). "Twitch Cancels TwitchCon Amsterdam Event Amid Coronavirus Concerns". The Esports Observer. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
- DeAngelis, Marc (March 5, 2020). "Minecraft Festival is postponed due to coronavirus fears". Engadget. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
- "Announcing the 2020 SXSW Gaming Awards Winners". SXSW. March 24, 2020. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
- Makuch, Eddie (February 7, 2020). "The Outer Worlds's Switch Release Delayed Due To Coronavirus Outbreak". GameSpot. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
- Olsen, Matthew (February 21, 2020). "Coronavirus Outbreak Has Led to a Demand Surge and Shortages of Ring Fit Adventure". USGamer. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
- Sarkar, Samit (March 13, 2020). "Ring Fit Adventure is sold out everywhere, Nintendo confirms". Polygon. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
- Blumenthal, Eli (March 19, 2020). "Doom Eternal arrives early at GameStop to avoid coronavirus crowds". CNET. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- Grixti, Shannon (March 25, 2020). "AFL Evolution 2 Has A New Release Date". Press Start. Southern Cross Austereo. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
- Mochizuki, Takashi (February 17, 2020). "Nintendo Is Likely to Suffer Global Switch Shortages From Virus". Bloomberg LP. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
- Good, Owen S. (March 25, 2020). "Take care of your Nintendo switch — Nintendo's repair shops are closed due to COVID-19". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
- Nunneley, Stephany (February 21, 2020). "Coronavirus has affected the production schedule for Valve Index, fewer units to be made available". VG247. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
- Yin-Poole, Wesley (March 6, 2020). "Konami delays PC Engine Core Grafx mini over coronavirus". Eurogamer. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
- "Atari VCS console delayed, report blames Coronavirus outbreak". Blasting News. 2020-02-05. Retrieved 2020-03-15.
- Noack, Rick; Pitrelli, Stefano (February 16, 2020). "Virus games are going viral as the coronavirus spreads". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
- "Killer plague game tops charts amid coronavirus". BBC. 23 January 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- Duffy, Clare (January 26, 2020). "Video game company urges players to avoid Plague Inc. game for information on coronavirus". CNN. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
- Orland, Kyle (March 25, 2020). "Plague Inc. rolling out new mode where you fight to contain the outbreak". Ars Technica. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
- Lyles, Taylor (2020-03-20). "GameStop to close all California stores indefinitely". The Verge. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
- Liao, Shannon. "GameStop says it's an essential business. Employees are outraged". CNN. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
- Orland, Kyle (2020-03-22). "GameStop shuts down regular operations amid coronavirus closures". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2020-03-22.
- "EB Games to close Saturday, as Ford fumes while dozens line up for launch, despite pandemic". Toronto Star. 2020-03-20. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
- Phillips, Tom (March 25, 2020). "Nintendo donates 9500 face masks to emergency services". Eurogamer. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
- Stephen, Bijan (March 26, 2020). "Twitch's Stream Aid 2020 plans to raise money for COVID-19 relief this weekend with a bunch of celebs". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
- Takahashi, Dean (March 28, 2020). "WHO and game companies launch #PlayApartTogether to promote physical distancing". VentureBeat. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
- Bonifacic, Igor (March 27, 2020). "Games Done Quick will host a charity stream for COVID-19 relief". Engadget. Retrieved March 28, 2020.