It’s not been an easy year. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced life as we know it to change and we have all had to adapt to the ‘new normal’ at an unprecedented pace. Many of the activities and hobbies we love are no longer permitted, or are at least radically altered, from what we are used to.
With the majority of us trapped inside for months on end, and most industries suffering, one sector which has continued to expand at rapid pace is gaming and e-sports. These markets were of course wildly popular before the pandemic, but social distancing and isolation has left many of us turning to competitive gaming, whether it be against friends or strangers, for some much- needed social interaction and excitement.
Gaming takes off during lockdown
It’s easy to see why Covid-19 has fostered such an increase in the amount of people choosing to engage and take up gaming and e-sports as a hobby. Being a mostly solitary activity, played primarily at home, games, particularly strategy and action games, were perfect for whiling away the hours during the more bleak days of lockdown, when real human contact was at a premium. Video games had a fully captive audience, and the economic performance of developers has reflected this golden opportunity for increasing sales and engagement.
Japanese gaming behemoth Nintendo Co Ltd reported a 428% rise in first quarter profit, equating to an operating profit of 144.7 billion yen ($1.37 billion) from April-June. This was largely thanks to the well- timed release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a multi-generational and accessible hit, and demand for the handheld Nintendo Switch, unveiled at the end of 2019. Developers have of course been hesitant to become too wildly excited over this boost to the sector, which Nintendo Chief Executive Shuntaro Furukawa warned was not expected to be permanent, but large gaming companies will be thankful they have more of less avoided the huge economic pressures that Covid-19 has brought.
E-sports and Online Casino gaming reaches new heights
The e-sports market has also welcomed an explosion in growth recently, with global revenues expected to hit $1 billion for the first time. E-sports in the more organised wing of multiplayer video gaming, pitting often professional gamers against each other in high stakes tournaments. Both traditional gaming and e-sports remain interdependent on each other however, and the rise in overall engagement in video gaming has been of great benefit to the growth of e-sports, despite some losses in advertising and ticket sales for live events.
Online casino gaming is another area of the ever-widening games market which has seen an increase in participation thanks to lockdown. Popular casino favourites such as poker, roulette and no deposit slots, particularly those designed for mobile use, have drawn in new players in record numbers.
Developers and operators are of course mindful not to celebrate their successes too vividly, with the wider world still reeling from the impact of coronavirus, both economically and tragically in the case of human lives. The gaming industry has led with many charity and community initiatives, including Bethesda, with a $1 million donation to Covid-19 relief efforts, and Sony has set aside $10 million to help struggling indie developers. That being said, the gaming industry has been quick to take advantage of the new audiences offered by lockdown, and will continue to reap the benefits in terms of profit for some time yet.