Video Games Mean More To Consumers During The Pandemic, And May Be Here To Stay

The pandemic has been good to the video game industry. Already growing before the COVID-19 crisis, the industry has taken great strides to keep consumers engaged during the 10 months or more they’ve been stuck at home. Nielsen reports that 55 percent of U.S. consumers were playing video games due to restrictions stemming from the pandemic.

Consumers are also spending more on video games. In January and February 2020, before COVID-19 really made an impact in the U.S., video game spending was up six percent. Growth more than doubled, to 14 percent, once the pandemic was in full swing.

Nielsen also noted that consumers’ interactions with games are more than just playing them directly. Online video content about games grew 18 percent to 1.2 billion people in 2020 and generated more than $9 billion in revenue. Video games also represent a new way to stay in touch with people and make new friends. SuperData, a Nielsen company, found that 27 percent of U.S. residents used video games to stay in touch with people in 2020.

Video games have also become a platform for advertising and promotion. On the free-to-play video game Fortnite, singer-songwriter Travis Scott held five, live virtual concerts in 2020 that drew more than 45 million viewers, while on Roblox, Lil Nas X attracted more than 33 million viewers to a virtual concert in November. U.S. Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar joined several popular Twitch streamers in a game of the online social deduction game Among Us, while both the Biden-Harris campaign and the Detroit Lions used Animal Crossings: New Horizons to connect with gamers and share information.

Nielsen notes that the availability of new COVID-19 vaccines will open new opportunities for consumers outside their homes, it does not expect this to result in a sudden shift away from this new, more multi-faceted approach to video games. It says that 10-plus months of this new behavior is more than enough time for it become a norm, citing research from health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally whose study found that new behaviors become automatic after an average of 66 days.

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