If there’s one thing we gamers aren’t averse to, it’s an apocalypse. We’ve seen devastating nuclear war, overwhelming alien invasion, and brutal pandemics. Of course, these are all virtual events, but the statement still stands. Now, the world faces a real threat – one of the worst in recent generations – that has the potential to alter the face of the planet forever. That threat is quite obviously COVID19, a new and powerful virus currently spreading across the world like wildfire.
COVID19 has caused entire infrastructures to grind to a halt. There are countless countries and cities in lockdown, schools and places of work closed, and families banding together to stockpile and hunker down. For the time being, this is the way life will be.
What Does This Mean For Gaming?
Well, that’s a very broad question. You can approach it from a multitude of perspectives, all wildly varied. We’ve already witnessed developers and publishers warn of potential distribution issues, most notably (and recently) from Square Enix. The Final Fantasy VII Remake developers went on record as saying there may be issues obtaining physical copies of the game, as distribution lines falter.
In fact, any hardware or physical variants of games are likely to be impacted on a wide scale, as factories and warehouses close, offices are locked and bolted, and staff resign themselves to staying at home for a number of weeks. This will of course open the door to another perspective: are we likely to see an enormous increase in digital sales? Of course.
Aside from obtaining games, we’ve also seen the celebration and announcement of video games take some rather hefty hits. It was only a few days ago that E3, easily the largest gaming event in the world, was cancelled. This was joined by the postponement or cancellation of several smaller or comparable events, such as the UK’s Insomnia Festival.
But We Can Still Play… Right?
Well, yes. While the pandemic hasn’t reached gargantuan proportions just yet, it is obviously a dire concern. However, the electricity is still switched on and the internet remains engaged. This brings me to a rather positive point amidst the negative – gaming will undoubtedly become more popular.
As so many people are at home and in such unfamiliar circumstances, the base player count will increase across all platforms. This isn’t a holiday or vacation, children aren’t on the streets, people aren’t laying on the beach. They’re in their houses and apartments, looking for ways to occupy their time.
Take the accidental ‘supermove’ by Activision. Their new Battle Royale, Call of Duty: Warzone, launched very recently, right in time for millions – no, tens of millions of people to take absences from work and school to play it. The game is free, accessible, cross-platform and – best of all – so good. They didn’t plan it, but in a way COVID19 was a godsend for their numbers.
Ndemic’s Plague Inc has also seen a massive rise in purchases. However, this is for a more morbid reason: players are trying to simulate the spread and devastation of COVID19 on the planet.
Time For A New Hobby?
It’s a great time for a new hobby, or to get stuck into an existing one. If you’re safe, secure and healthy, this is probably the best opportunity you’ll have for the foreseeable future to… well, get some time in!
One platform that is seeing a boom in footfall and interactivity is Twitch. There has been a sudden influx in both streamers and viewers, with the popular streaming platform seeing concurrent viewer counts of well over two million. The concurrent count of channels streaming is currently the third highest it has been in history, and climbing.
It takes very little to stream: a headset or microphone, a gaming device, and an internet connection. That’s the bare minimum you’ll likely need to put your face and voice out there without taking risks with COVID19. It’s a great way to network with other gamers and can help beat the social impact of isolation or quarantine.
Otherwise, it’s definitely time to dust off that backlog of games. There are some really good sales out there at the moment, and a few new titles cropping up here and there. If you’ve been putting off grabbing that expansion or reloading an old save, take this opportunity to get stuck in.
Will COVID19 Cause Any Long-Term Impact?
If we can’t mitigate the virus, then absolutely. If the spread persists, COVID19 will almost certainly cause further harm to the gaming industry, at least on a physical scale. The mid- to latter-end of the year promises some fantastic launches, with top titles and even a new generation of consoles releasing.
However, if COVID19 is still present, these launches may need to be delayed, particularly in the case of hardware. These consoles are manufactured in China, and a resurgence in the virus in-country would see production slow massively. Then there’s the distribution and procurement aspects to worry about. Ultimately, these items may not even end up being delivered to your door, or into stores.
Similarly, if COVID19 persists, further gaming events will be cancelled, such as EGX (which already saw a postponement of sorts). This will obviously extend to LAN tournaments, conventions and fan gatherings.
So, Let’s Hope It Doesn’t Come To That!
Play your games, start a stream, connect with people. Don’t forget to wash your hands regularly and for twenty seconds at a time. Avoid the infection and stay home where possible. We can mitigate the spread, but only if we all work together.
Let us know what you’re playing while under isolation or quarantine? Have you found something new or are you diving into an old favourite?