It seems the general consensus when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, is to shut down non-essential businesses, and adopt self-isolation and social distancing. The response in the gaming industry has been more layered, however.
Major gaming and esports events shutting down
Following guidelines from the World Health Organization, as well as urges from governments the world over, all major events have either been cancelled, postponed, or in some cases will instead be held over livestream. E3 is the most notable of these, as it was officially cancelled on March 11, with talks of the event moving to an online format.
Similarly, the League of Legends North American and European Championship Series’ will continue on as planned, sans press coverage or spectators. Many other esports events were cancelled or postponed. The most notable of these include the likes of Dota 2’s Epicenter Major, Call of Duty League, and Apex Legends’ recently announced Global Series.
An update regarding E3 2020. pic.twitter.com/cThkDIkfVm
— Ubisoft (@Ubisoft) March 11, 2020
Gaming peripherals seemingly unaffected
When it comes to gaming accessories and peripherals, it’s interesting to see how companies have responded to this grave matter. In the case of Razer, controversial CEO Min-Liang Tan has dedicated a portion of his staff and manufacturing line to switch over to surgical mask production. He has pledged to “donate up to 1 million masks to the health authorities of different countries.” He has also made it clear that this is not the full extent of the aid that Razer will provide to those in need.
Seemingly no other gaming brand has responded quite in the same way as Razer. Logitech’s CEO Bracken Darrel has stated that they are in a good position to help those affected by the pandemic to remain connected to the rest of the world while stuck in isolation.
NVIDIA’s response is the most intriguing to me. They have asked gamers — or anyone with a graphics card — to lend them any unused power. The aim is to use this power in order to help with simulations related to COVID-19. This initiative gives each and every gamer a chance to help out in their own way.
GameStop should just… stop
Interestingly, GameStop have actually deemed themselves to be essential service, and have chosen to remain open. This goes against actual legal orders to close non-essential services — which just leaves grocery stores and pharmacies open to operate. At least they suspended their game trade-in service to help combat the spread of the virus, right?
On the tech side of things, companies like AMD, Intel and the like may be seeing an increase in price for their goods and services. This goes for the rest of the PC gaming industry as well. This of course isn’t solely due to the outbreak, but factories and supply line shutdowns aren’t exactly cause for celebration. Best case scenario: they either have enough stock to keep going, or they find alternate means of manufacture. Worst case scenario: you will probably have to wait a while for that upgrade you got excited about.
Game development is business as usual, for the most part
Luckily, due to the nature of game development, we’re not seeing quite the same amount of hiatus and postponement as we’ve seen for movies and other media. Lots of developers can work from home, and are opting to. Paladins and Rogue Company developer Hi-Rez is among the companies switching almost completely to remote work. It’s still very early to tell, but game delays may still be in the future. It may just be that we haven’t heard of them yet, as studios of wary of incurring losses prematurely.
Due to the excess amount of free time the average person has nowadays, there’s actually been a global increase in gaming and consumption of streaming content. With much of the world trying to avoid going stir-crazy, gamers are turning to their favorite titles and personalities for entertainment. Data from StreamElements and analytics firm Arsenal.gg shows a 10% and 15% increase in stream viewership for Twitch and Youtube Gaming respectively.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons and DOOM Eternal have both released today, and with Persona 5: The Royal releasing later this month, gamers have a lot to look forward to. I just hope not many of you ordered the special edition of P5R from Amazon, because I may have some bad news for you.
Of course, the gaming industry isn’t exactly the most important thing to focus on in times like these. However, everywhere I look, I see people talking about how gaming is helping them cope and pass the time, with varied success. In the case of small streamers, gaming is literally the one thing keeping them afloat financially.
However you may look at it, this industry is an important one in a lot of different ways, and the way it responds to crisis is a crucial part of its survival. This is the first time in history it has been put to the test on such a massive scale, and the various responses people within the industry adopt now will surely have an impact long after the COVID-19 crisis ends.
Updated March 30, 2020.