Over the past 3-4 years, the popularity of esports and gaming, in general, has grown exponentially, and the recent pandemic has only greased the wheels for this growth. Social distancing and quarantining have created a gap in our social structure, and gaming is not only a great way of connecting remotely, it’s a great distraction from all the chaos.
An Increase in Playing & Viewing
Recent data shows that both sales and playing time stats have increased since lockdown. One Nielsen report showed that 82% of consumers around the world played or watched video game content during the height of COVID-19 shutdowns. The Nielsen Games Video Game Tracking (VGT) reported the increase percentages in the 4 highest countries:
- The U.S.: 46%
- France: 41%
- The U.K.: 28%
- Germany: 23%
Considering the menu of media options at our disposal nowadays (all of which saw increases during lockdown), this sharp increase is even more impressive. Perhaps this growth is partially in response to the innovations of several non-traditional gaming outlets. With the restrictions on live sports, organizations like NASCAR and the NBA created esport leagues to help create a new medium of fan engagement. Mike Sepso, co-founder and CEO of Vindex, an esports infrastructure platform, stated,
“Unique to gaming is that it has both interactive and linear consumption models, and the activity of watching gaming video streams and video on-demand has become nearly as big as gaming itself. In the COVID-19 era, all of this activity has increased dramatically because of both the new time available to people and their need for social interaction, which gaming provides.”
This comment along with the engagement for the aforementioned events begs the question: will these tactics remain after quarantines lift?
Gamers During the Pandemic
A study completed earlier this year found that over 66% of under-35-year-olds were playing or watching gaming content during lockdown. About a third of esports fans acknowledged that they watched more esports content as an alternative to traditional TV content. This is supported by Stream Hatchet, who reported that “watch hours” almost doubled from Q1 to Q2 of 2020 in streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and Mixer. On those same platforms, StreamElements and Arsenal.gg shared that there was a 99% increase in total viewing hours (not just games) year over year in the month of April.
Meanwhile, Verizon reported an increase in gaming traffic during peak hours of 75%, whereas digital video traffic only increased by 12% and web traffic by 20%. StreamElements concluded:
“While the industry already had momentum coming into this year, sheltering-in-place definitely gave it an extra boost.”
While viewership is up, actually playing the games was more popular than watching for esports fans ages 18-34. This increase brings other issues to the surface: demands for new games and better bandwidth to handle the increase of players. Data shared by Comcast shows that new game downloads have increased by 80%, compared to a 50% increase in total game downloads.
Like other industries, game producers also experienced delays in manufacturing and other processes, even though many games are available digitally. Many companies announced that consumers should expect delays, while other organizations like EpicGames continued to give updates and fix bugs. Despite mobile gaming growing popularity, tycoons like Sony and Microsoft both released new models of their game systems (PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X), and Facebook intends to enter the space with its new Oculus system.
What’s the Long-Term Impact?
This newfound interest can influence the future of gaming in 4 ways.
- It’s accelerating the current shift towards mobile and cloud-based game platforms.
- It could widen the monetization avenues through subscription and free-to-play models.
- The gaming industry will likely increase its partnerships with other entertainment sectors (sports, music, etc.).
- It’s helping to increase the normalization of esports. Analysts have stated that esports has been “popularized and legitimized in an unpredictable and profound way” thanks to the broadcasters, leagues, and athletes looking to expand their reach and engage fans.
At minimum, this pandemic has invigorated the gaming industry and reminded media companies and brands that there’s a growing opportunity with highly engaged consumers. These and future developments will continue to bring esports into the mainstream, and these viewership and user numbers will likely continue to grow. However, with this growth in playing and viewing comes a growth in related complaints like tired eyes and eye strain. Trusted by athletes in every field, EyePromise offers an eye vitamin designed for gamers of all calibers.