Although the pandemic has hit many industries hard, the gaming sector has been one of the few to experience an unprecedented boom, with people seeking entertainment at home during successive rounds of restrictions.

Visitors play Super Smash Bros Ultimate on Nintendo Switch at the Paris Games Week (PGW), a trade fair for video games in Paris, France, October 25, 2018.
Visitors play Super Smash Bros Ultimate on Nintendo Switch at the Paris Games Week (PGW), a trade fair for video games in Paris, France, October 25, 2018. (Reuters Archive)

A year after the novel coronavirus struck the world, a lot of things remain changed in our lives with terms like quarantine, isolation, social distancing and lockdowns becoming the new norms.

With more than 108 million people affected and close to 2.4 million fatalities the pandemic has hit daily life hard, impacting economies around the world resulting in millions of jobs lost and lifestyles changed.

Several sectors of the global economy like tourism, travel, restaurants, automobile as well as oil and gas have bore the brunt of the pandemic.

The global entertainment industry is also one of the impacted sectors that has seen most live events involving audiences or in-person attendance shut down.

Many events including Comic Con international and E3 were cancelled while others were moved to a virtual venue. 

The global film industry that relied mostly on theatre and cinema ticket sales took a massive hit with movies delayed or released on digital platforms for home viewing.

And the video game industry, which was already on the rise pre-pandemic has seen an exponential rise during the past year and reportedly outgrown its film counterpart. 

According to a MarketWatch analysis of data from International Data Corporation most growth in the year’s $179.9 billion sales were registered in the mobile phone gaming market at $87.7 (24 percent increase) billion followed by consoles at $52.5 billion (20 percent increase) and PC at $39.5 billion (11 percent increase).

Unlike consoles the data does not take into account hardware sales for phones and computers.

As far as mobile phone sales are concerned Chinese tech giant Tencent’s Pubg was the most popular and highest selling title, raking in $2.6 million (a 65 percent increase from the previous year).

Nintendo’s Pokemon Go, released in 2016, also continued to remain popular as ever.

Pokemon reportedly remains the highest money-making franchise of all time earning more than $90 billion, most of them from merchandising rather than game sales.

All three major console makers Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo reported higher than expected sales and are forecasting record revenues in anticipation of fresh lockdowns.

Ninendo’s Switch, released in 2017, was reportedly the best selling console in 2020.

The impact of the recent launch of the next-gen consoles, Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X, has not been fully felt in the sales yet as supply issues remain in most parts of the world.

Both Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp have launched next-generation devices, but are struggling to meet overwhelming demand amid supply chain disruption due to the pandemic.

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The demand, additionally impacted by a recent shortage of semiconducting chips, has led to chaotic scenes at electronics stores when supplies do become available.

Both companies have recorded an increase in the paid subscriptions.

The Xbox Live online gaming service has more than 100 million monthly active users and its mobile version is used by 60 million daily users. Microsoft had earlier disclosed it had 115 million Teams daily users in October.

Total number of Sony’s PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Network's subscribers stood at 41.5 million and 114 million respectively. 

As far as sales of titles was concerned, the most growth in revenue was recorded in digital sales.

Most major game publishers across all platforms — including Activision Blizzard with 2020’s best-seller Call of Duty, Epic Games of recent Fortnite fame, Take Two-Rockstar with online cash cows Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2, as well as Electronic Arts with sports titles like FIFA, Madden and Need for Speed — have reported an increase in revenue from sales as well as  active user base.

Experts say the increase in user base is most likely a result of people hunkered down due to lockdowns.

The increase in active users was hence also reflected in the increase of in-game sales.

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Nintendo’s Animal Crossing New Horizons was the year’s best seller for Switch — making it the second-best selling game on its wildly popular console behind 2017’s Mario Kart 8.

Apart from physical sales, e-sports activities, and arcade parlours — all of which depend on gatherings of people — most other segments of the video game industry have flourished.

Already suffering from dwindling sales and ill financial health, Gamestop, the game store chain that recently made headlines in a reddit-fueled saga, had also drawn flak in the initial days of the pandemic when it attempted to declare itself as an essential business. 

Most other physical game sales outlets, that depended on walk-in or showrooms sales were elbowed behind by the online delivering rivals or digital sales in case of games.

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As soon the the pandemic hit there was a sudden increase in interest towards e-sports, given that all international sporting events stood suspended at that time.

But e-sports could expand much given that growth in the sector would've required people to gather, which was contradictory to the new emerging norms. Eventually regular sports events also resumed, albeit without any spectator attendance at the venues.

Video game arcade parlours and gaming zones suffered the same fate as cinemas, gyms and other "non-essential" businesses.

And as the world roils with the second or in some cases third wave of the pandemic, no one is expecting consumer behavior from 2020 to reverse any time soon. That means the boom enjoyed by the gaming sector is here to stay till the near future at least.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies