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COVID-19

Video games attract millions of players as the world “shelters in place”

Jasmine Garsd Mar 30, 2020
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What to do while stuck at home? Play video games, of course. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Nintendo of America
COVID-19

Video games attract millions of players as the world “shelters in place”

Jasmine Garsd Mar 30, 2020
What to do while stuck at home? Play video games, of course. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Nintendo of America
HTML EMBED:
COPY

A lot of industries have been hard hit during this pandemic with widespread restrictions on movement. One industry, though, is booming: video games. People are staying home, booting up their consoles and playing for hours.

In fact, a World Health Organization went as far as to recommend video games as a way to play with others while social distancing.

For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused mass migration to a tropical island filled with talking animals. 

I’m talking about Nintendo’s new game, Animal Crossing: New Horizon. It’s sold millions of copies in less than two weeks. The goal? Catch fish, befriend locals, wander around. 

“It is a kind, nice environment,” said Dmitri Williams, a professor of communications at USC Annenberg. “And at a time when the world is dark and uncertain and grim, sometimes the best thing you can do is go into a warm, safe space.”

With people forced to stay home around the world, online games are also a way for friends to stay connected. Fifteen million people played the latest “Call of Duty” game in three days of its release. That’s a record. Neil Macker, a senior equity analyst with MorningStar, said more players also means more in-game purchases or “microtransactions.”

It’s not all good news for the industry, though. Sony’s new console, the Playstation 5, is supposed to launch this Christmas.

“Normally they would start production in, ironically enough, Wuhan, China, about right now to get enough consoles made in order to launch globally,” said Mike Salmon, senior vice president of games at Magid, a consumer research company.

Salmon said that timeline will likely be delayed. And new games are also hitting snags as creative teams have to figure out how to work from home.  

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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