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The Good, Bad, and Ugly Impact of Coronavirus on the Gaming Industry

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, we have begun to see a wide range of effects on the video game industry. Events have been canceled, retailers have shut down, and gaming habits have changed. How exactly that manifests and affects the wider industry remains to be seen, but we have collected a few of the most noteworthy pieces of news and analysis to share with you.

Good – Charitable Giving and Gaming for Treatments and Cures

As the needs of hospitals have risen, game companies have stepped up to help fight COVID-19.

  • Razer announced that they were repurposing their manufacturing lines to produce surgical masks.
  • Sony revealed that they are in the process of creating a $100 million USD fund for coronavirus global relief.
    • On top of that, Sony revealed their Play at Home Initiative which released the Uncharted collection for free and donated $10 million USD to support indie developers!
  • Humble Bundle put together a special package consisting of over $1,000 USD worth of games for $30 USD with 100% of the money from the bundle going to charities supporting COVID-19 relief.

While many companies donated funds or parts of their manufacturing to help fight against COVID-19, some took creative approaches and encouraged people to fight in other ways. NVIDIA encouraged its PC users to download Folding@home, a program that donates processing power to help researchers around the world for a variety of causes. Most recently, Folding@home users can direct their processing power to identify portions of COVID-19’s structure that could prove to lead to more effective treatment – or even a cure.

Similar to Folding@home, the University of Washington designed a game in 2010 that has become a way for gamers to help scientists understand and beat back against the virus. Foldit has players solving puzzles that are actually coming up with creative and effective ways of folding protein structures. This helps to find the best ways to prevent or resist coronavirus when it invades the human respiratory system. There are so many protein combinations, that crowdsourcing the solution in a game like this really does help to find solutions to these complex biological puzzles.

Bad – Game Sales and Supply Chain Woes

Though recent news has indicated that video games have never been a better business, many analysts say the downturn will come. The short-term boom has been attributed to more people staying home as businesses and governments around the world shut down or shrunk operations. Titles like Animal Crossing: New Horizons saw huge increases in digital sales and free-to-play games like Call of Duty Warzone reached record numbers of players.

Gaming as a safe, accessible, and relatively cheap entertainment has helped shelter the industry against the wider effects of the pandemic. However, the closing of physical game retailers and, perhaps more importantly, the disruption of the global supply chain, will have an effect on the entire industry. The pressure and risk especially applies to Sony and Microsoft, two companies that are currently in the process of launching next-gen consoles onto the market later this year. Nintendo has reported difficulties in manufacturing enough of their Switch console to meet demand, a problem both Sony and Microsoft are possibly already encountering as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X enter production.

Ugly – Fewer Games as Indies Suffer

The supply chain problems across the world also mean that indie developers will find it harder and more expensive to obtain the necessary equipment and software to create their games. The cancellation of events like E3, PAX, and GDC eliminate opportunities for indies to pitch their games to publishers and network to find additional talent. Without those avenues of support, the big gambles of many indie games that are known and beloved today, indie game developers have to rely on themselves and their own funds to continue making their games. For many, that means they will run out of money before they can finish creating their title.

We might never see the next Undertale because of this pandemic and the resulting economic fallout… and it doesn’t get much uglier than that.

Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!