Times have never been better for the online gaming industry, which is one of the few businesses that is thriving in this pandemic. The lockdown measures imposed all over the world left billions of people self-isolating without much choice as far as entertainment goes, and many of them have turned to online gaming and esports.
The figures are staggering, and the crisis is not over yet. During the lockdown, people have spent billions of hours every month playing online or watching live gaming videos on YouTube and Twitch.
The main reason people have taken to online gaming in unprecedented numbers is simple – availability. This is one of the few fun activities that you can do while staying indoors, and most of the purchases can be done digitally.
Many games are sold digitally. Click a few buttons and you have a new game. That’s hard to resist!
Sales for game consoles and computers have also been up during this period. Given that games on these devices are ones you can play again and again, they are affordable over time.
Online gaming is perceived as cheap, as more companies are offering free-to-play games, too. As a business model, this relies on in-game monetization. Users are given the option to buy DLC (downloadable content), which includes extension packs, new features, or new characters, as well as “loot boxes” that offer random virtual items.
This extra content is usually only a low cost, in which users who are addicted to the game will gladly pay. And they will pay again next week, and so on.
Over the past few years, a new trend has emerged where people play free casino games, choosing from a range of different types and spending a lot more time playing them. That’s because games are becoming increasingly more complex, and are therefore compelling users to return to time and time again.
Another strategy to get people interested in online gaming is offering registered users the possibility to play some of the best games for free for a couple of days. Some companies have even presented this option as a gift to people who have been forced to self-isolate, therefore creating a new entertainment opportunity.
As the games are only free for a few days, users naturally try to make the most of the unexpected gift. Then, when the free trial is over, many users decide to buy the game and carry on playing.
People have also taken to online gaming like never before; as thanks to mobile gaming, you don’t even need a console in order to play games these days.
Almost everyone has a smartphone, and gaming companies were quick to realize that this is the way of the future. All major players in this industry are trying to take on this new trend. Google recently removed the sign-up fee for its cloud gaming service, and Facebook just launched its separate gaming app.
Cloud gaming is the way of the future as it allows people to play streamed games across multiple devices. Another domain that has been growing during the pandemic is that of streaming platforms such as Twitch, which broadcasts esports competitions and live online gaming.
Why are online games so popular? It’s already a well-known fact that these games captivate users with the permanent promise of a new thrill. Just try a little harder and you’ll unlock a new episode; play for a few hours more and you’ll level up. Then, if you step up your game, you’ll be able to win.
It’s the adrenaline rush that these in-game milestones and victories provide that keep users glued to their devices. For people who have been locked in their houses, gaming has offered them a chance to feel some excitement in their lives, so it’s no wonder that people have spent so many hours playing them.
Another reason that people have been drawn to online gaming is the need to connect with others. Not being allowed to see anybody except their immediate family, people have become starved of social interaction. That’s especially true for younger generations who could no longer meet their school friends or college buddies.
Everybody says that digital interaction is not real interaction, but at times like these, it’s better than nothing at all. And you might be surprised at how easy it is to make friends via in-game chats.
The same basic desire for social interaction explains the rising interest in streaming platforms. To an outside observer, it doesn’t make much sense; why would you watch somebody else play a game when you could play it yourself?
The reality though, is that people enjoy watching gameplay as much as they would enjoy watching a movie in a theater, except this is no longer possible because of the pandemic. On the other hand, good players have loyal fans, just like football players or NBA stars.
An amateur player likes to watch and somehow identify with a pro. If you don’t believe this, just check how many subscribers these gaming legends have; there are millions of followers. Many of these fans make sure to tune in when a new live stream is announced, just as your parents would sit in front of the TV to watch their favorite show when they were younger.
Real World vs Virtual World
Finally, gaming makes time go by faster, which has been a major bonus during the lockdown. In normal times, teenagers are frequently told off by their parents for spending too much time online, but now people have found themselves in the unusual situation of having too much time on their hands, and almost nothing to do with it.
Another great point about online gaming is that it’s an immersive experience and it helps people take their minds off their real problems in the real world. The real world disappears while you are busy building a virtual empire.
Final Thoughts on Gaming During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic will go away eventually, but the gaming industry is here to stay. The gaming sector is looking towards a great future, especially because the interest in mobile gaming is growing. Plus, some people who have never tried this form of entertainment before the lockdown are sure to keep playing for years to come.