Level 43: COVID-19 vs. Gaming Industry

COVID-19 is forever changing the gaming industry. We've rounded up a few of the many ways that players, companies and organizers are coping with everything.

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📜 This Week’s Most Important News

A Story of Boom & Bust:

The Bad Stuff

COVID-19 is decimating the IRL gaming industry. The list of events, tournaments, and conferences that have been cancelled continues to grow each day. Situations like this are unprecedented for many tournament organizers, who face severe financial repercussions for refunds, last minute cancellations, and for publishers and journalists who rely on events to supplement their livelihoods. The only silver lining is that the current situation offers many IRL teams an interesting conundrum: innovate or perish. Hopefully, most make it out the other side.

In the meantime, here are just a few of the IRL events cancelled or moved to digital formats due to COVID-19:

E3, GDC, TwitchCon: Amsterdam, Apple’s WWDC, Japan’s BitSummit League of Legends (NA & EU events), PUBG Pro-League, Dota 2: EPICENTER, Four upcoming Pokemon events, All EA Events, All Overwatch League Events, All Call of Duty League Events, Rocket League World Championships,

ESPN has been keeping a daily log of the running cancellations. Feel free to check it out if you’re looking to stay up to date Link

The Good Stuff

With cities like San Francisco urging residents to stay indoors, in-home gaming platforms are doing better than ever. Several services have reached record highs in regards to playerbase and useage rates. It’ll be particularly interesting to see how these companies perform this fiscal quarter in comparison to the overall market. A few of the many records being set:

  • Nearly 20M people used Steam last Saturday Morning Link

    • The previous record was around 18.8M users, which was set during Lunar New Year, when China had its own COVID-19 lockdown

  • The new Call of Duty game broke 15M players in only four days Link

    • This makes CoD:Warzone the fastest growing non-mobile game of all time

  • CS:Go broke 1M concurrent players for the first time ever Link

    • Counterstrike launched in Aug 2012, and it’s just now hitting peak numbers. Incredible staying power

Various other channels have seen growth as well; mobile gaming, fitness gaming (Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure), gaming services (Xbox Game Pass) and others. One of our favorite industry experts, Daniel Ahmad, compiled all of the records being broken into a thread. Link

💡 Industry Content

Consoles - The Next Generation: Given GDC’s cancellation, it makes sense that both Sony and Microsoft moved their hardware launches to online events. These next generation consoles are shaping up to be so so powerful. If you’re interested in the details, The Verge put together a side-by-side comparison. Link

Game From Home: Considering the current work from home culture, we especially loved this article on Moon Studio’s distributed teams — how they function and operate. Why wouldn’t the best people want to work remotely with the flexibility of location and higher salaries? Moon Studios recently launched their latest title, Ori and The Will of Wisps. Great if you’re looking for tips and tricks on team communication. Link

Apple Arcade in Singapore: This story follows the birth of Singapore-based studio, Mighty Bear Games, to Apple Arcade. Mobile game design rules Asia’s gaming market, and is on the edge of exploding in the West. We’re left wondering: is Apple Arcade the best way to gain traction and popularity in a market ruled by free-to-play, fixed prices, and downloadable add-ons?  Link

Return to Glory: Co-founders of the hit mobile MOBA Vainglory recently secured funding to build out their own game using the proprietary technology of the parent company that fueled their first hit. Following Riot Games’ and Disney’s strategy, we’re seeing more and more game studios opting to build new content around familiar IP rather than take a swing at something brand new. It makes sense to build around something people know — great way to leverage existing fans, save money, and cut marketing budget. Link

🎮 Fun & Games

Pokemon Stay (Home): Pokemon Go has completely changed their game to adjust for COVID-19. Pokemon are spawning automatically and more frequently for players in their homes, and the cost of all in-game resources also has dropped. There’s a real possibility players may never have to walk to collect Pokemon again (jokes)! The change doesn’t come without cost, as the game’s regular community/raid events already have been cancelled. It’ll be interesting to see how the game’s avid fan base and community will adapt to the more sedentary lifestyle. Link

Indie Time: Nintendo’s most recent Indie Showcase premiered this week. With success stories from games like Celeste on the Nintendo Switch, we love to see a big publisher make room for other up and comers.  Link 

😎 Other Cool Stuff

A Wealth of Twitch Content: As we mentioned above, the COVID-19 Crisis has skyrocketed userbases for gaming platforms, including Twitch. The last week has filled our social feeds with some of the most memorable moments in streaming we’ve seen in a while. If you’re in need of a good laugh, check these out:

  • Dr. Disrespect weighs in on Nadeshot & Cloak’s performance in a game of Call of Duty (NSFW Language) Link

  • IRL Streamers react to an accidental face touch, can’t be too careful! Link

  • A poorly timed radio announcement about COVID-19 in Seattle (NSFW Language) Link

A World Thrown Into Discord: In light of COVID-19, community-focused messaging platform, Discord, upped their technical capacity by 20%; and yet, the service still experienced intermittent crashes. As people learn to work and function remotely, Discord is seeing a huge spike in use cases: everything from business meetings to e-learning. Link

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