Video games and corona: uncertainty despite sales boom

While gamers are fleeing game worlds during the crisis, homework is a challenge for developers.

Not all industries are equally affected by the corona crisis. Some are even better – at least apparently – than before. Game sales go through the roof, canceled events such as E3 and Gamescom offer fans worldwide more with digital offers entertainment and that hotly anticipated titles like “Last of Us” or “Cyberpunk 2077” will be postponed – corona whether or not. So is everything good?

Record sales

The numbers speak a clear language: According to the analysts from Sensor Tower, the number of downloads in the first quarter of 2020 rose sharply in the iOS app store. Games accounted for 603 million of the 1.6 billion downloads. On the iPad it’s the biggest increase in downloads since 2016. That’s where the most money was spent on games, according to Sensor Tower that’s a total of $ 1.6 billion.

Alone in the United States Recorded $ 10.86 billion in video game sales in the first quarter of 2020. According to the market research institute NPD, this corresponds to an increase of 9 percent compared to the previous year. The top-selling games were Animal Crossing, FIFA 2020, Doom Eternal and Call of Duty Modern warfare.

Together in the virtual world

It is not surprising that games that offer online multiplayer were particularly popular. Despite the spatial distance, they made it possible for friends to do something together, only virtually. The publishers and shop owners know that. Epic even dared to offer GTA V for free download and their system broke down under the extreme rush. Players had to deal with failures for 2 days.

But not only playing together was the focus of many. Many used online multiplayer games to do virtually what they could not do in reality due to the corona measures. Pupils in Japan and the United States held their graduation ceremony Minecraft from. Quaranteen University offers the platform for this. Students can register for their festivities, which can be followed online via a livestream. The UC Berkeley students rebuilt their entire campus in Minecraft and called the project “Blockeley”. Instead of zoom, teams or Skype A British company used the voice chat feature of Red Dead Redemption 2 and a Japanese company met in Animal Crossing for a meeting.

Nintendo high and low

That animal Crossing almost perfectly matched the crisis, catapulted Nintendos Share in mid-March to a high of 408 euros. Before that, the share had been falling steadily since December 2019, until it reached an annual low of € 275. Now the stock falls again. One factor is certainly the worldwide lack of Nintendo Switch Consoles.

While the Lite versions are still largely available, the main console is currently difficult to obtain. As Bloomberg reported, due to the corona measures were missing Asia Components for the production of new ones Consoles. They are on the Philippines and in Malaysia produced where the measures were only recently relaxed. Nevertheless, the Japanese game company remains behind. The predicted 19 million copies sold in the current calendar year are still a long way off.

PS5 and Xbox Series X continue on track

The biggest innovations for 2020 are without question the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. The production of both Consoles doesn’t seem to be affected by the Corona crisis at all. Microsoft and Sony repeatedly confirmed that they would stick to the fall sales launch. So far no prices have been given for the Consoles released. Due to the high material costs, experts expect that at least 500 euros will be charged. However, console sales take a back seat anyway. The revenues of the companies are increasingly generated by subscription services. Rumored to want Sony even deliberately limit PS5 sales.

Microsoft already has technical details and the design of the new ones console reveals who like that PS5 to come on the market in autumn. Of the PS5 all technical data are known, like the console looks, you don’t know yet. Only the controller has been introduced so far. Traditionally, it was expected that this information would become known as part of the E3. But it fails.

Gamescom and E3 as digital events

And this failure is one of the biggest changes for game developers, publishers and fans. For players, these were opportunities to meet like-minded people and stars and see the latest games before everyone else. Even if there is a lack of cooperation, which is a significant part of the experience, players will have the opportunity to participate in the events digitally.

The organizers of the Gamescom have during the crisis not yet spotted with fame. The same day the German Chancellor Angela Merkel For the first time before the press during the pandemic and recommended that large events with at least 1,000 participants be canceled, Gamescom ceremoniously opened ticket sales. The fair had a total of 373,000 visitors in 2019.

They kept saying they were watching the situation and had already worked out a plan in the background, but only canceled the event when a nationwide ban on major events was announced until August 31. Whether it would not have been more sensible to accept the disappointment of the fans and to convert the fair into a digital event beforehand for security reasons remains open. Instead, however, it was decided to shift responsibility to the state. With the online event “Gamescom Now” you try to get the fans good anyway entertainment to offer.

Most players will not even notice that the E3 will be canceled this year. Sony and Bethesda had already announced before the cancellation that they would not attend the fair in 2020. Other publishers like UbisoftNintendo Microsoft and Devolver Digital will have their presentations online. As in previous years, you can simply follow the presentations in the live stream.

Opportunity for indie developers

For publishers and developer on the other hand, the failure of the events is more noticeable. For them, such trade fairs consist of appointments at which a possible collaboration is discussed. Everything now works online and can change the dynamics significantly. While many indie developers are lining up at publishers’ fairs to get a possible deal, publishers now have to search for it themselves. Because you can easily hold meetings online if you become aware of a promising developer studio. The elimination of the expensive events for small studios and the increase in sales can therefore particularly help indie developers to get their game financed.

Work processes change little for many indie studios, since they often consist of a few people who can easily switch to teleworking. The situation is very different for large companies. While the developer by Cyberpunk 2077, CD Project Red, despite Homework had to stick to the release date on September 17th Sony postpone the start of the Last of Us II, which is anticipated with great anticipation. Instead of May, the game is now scheduled to appear on June 19. The developer studio Naughty Dog could not guarantee during the corona pandemic that the games could be released in time.

Impact on 2021

Nintendo boss Shuntaro Furukawa expects major restrictions from COVID-19, says an investor briefing. Xbox boss too Phil Spencer remains skeptical. He told that the effects of the pandemic would be particularly evident next year. Games that are already on the market this year only have to be finalized. That means that developer face major challenges in the home office and some would be at risk of experiencing burnout. The games would be finished in time. However, production came to a standstill in studios that are in the middle of the development phase and require voice actors and motion capture recordings in the studio.

In fact, the release schedule for major titles for this year looks rather thin. According to The Last of Us II (June 19), Ghost of Tsushima (July 17), Paper Mario: The Origami King (July 17), Marvel Avengers (September 4), Cyberpunk 2077 (September 17) and the one planned for the end of the year Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has no announcements for major titles. This year the games industry seems to be in spite of corona so still solidly positioned. It remains to be seen whether players will be supplied with large, new titles in the coming year.


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