A year and a half later, things are finally starting to look up. The vaccination campaign is carrying on, businesses and activities are reopening, and people are finally glimpsing a return to pre-lockdown life. But what effect will normality’s return have on gaming? After all, it was largely thanks to Covid-19 that the sector experienced exponential growth in 2020, reaching at the end of 2020 a record value of around $162.32 billion. Will life post-lockdown reveal that the gaming boom was a blip, or will the appeal of gaming last beyond 2020?
I think there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. The consolidation of the gaming sector as a core actor within the wider entertainment industry is not a sudden phenomenon that only occurred thanks to the pandemic. Pre-lockdown, gaming was already experiencing a healthy growth year-on-year, largely driven by the rise of mobile gaming. The latter had (and continues to have) the merit of expanding gaming to a far wider audience, thanks to the accessibility of phones and the free-to-play nature of many games. Coronavirus certainly provided a welcome impetus to the industry’s expansion, but it was by no means the single overarching reason for gaming’s growth as, in reality, this had already been occurring steadily for a while. There is no reason to believe that gaming post-lockdown will be much different, as Covid-19’s presence is far from crucial for its continued success.
[gaming] has become an alternative to meeting friends at the cinema or going to the pub
Certainly, Covid-19 helped. It enabled players to spend much more time than normal on games, thus pushing up sales. And, very importantly, it allowed a fundamental shift to occur in terms of the audience exposed to gaming. While it is true that pre-lockdown the player base was massive and growing (2.3 billion people), the pandemic served to accelerate its expansion and open up gaming to those that would normally have chosen to stay out of it. The 55-64 age group comes to my mind, having risen by almost a third in the last couple of years, affirming itself as the fastest-growing market within gaming. And these newcomers are here to stay. The force of habit is not one that can be easily shaken off, especially since these new players have discovered videogames as a positive activity, one that offers escapism and social interactions.
I think that many have discovered during the pandemic that videogames can be a tool through which to forge social interactions which is important to understand the success of the post-pandemic gaming industry. After all, we humans are “social animals,” as Aristotle said. We crave human interaction, actively seeking it. And for many, gaming has been able to provide it while stuck at home. It has become an alternative to meeting friends at the cinema or going to the pub. I won’t be surprised if for some this continues to be the case in the months and years ahead, with gaming becoming embedded in people’s daily lives similar to trips out with friends.
Covid-19 has accelerated the integration of gaming in people’s everyday life
Granted, the gaming industry still has work to do. Although these are the trends in place, gaming companies have to work to ensure that the heightened popularity of gaming is correctly harnessed, and the new audiences don’t drift away, as could happen if they don’t deliver. The way I see it, it is paramount that video game production is diversified to better satisfy the expanding audiences’ tastes, which will inevitably become more varied. Among these, I think the socialising one will be particularly important. The need for this has revealed itself as a significant force towards attracting new players, and one which, when used properly, like with It Takes Two, has been financially lucrative too. It would be a mistake to ignore the desire to socialise, especially as it satisfies a fundamental human need that never risks going out of style.
Ultimately, Covid-19 has accelerated the integration of gaming in people’s everyday life. This being the case, it is paramount that the gaming seizes the opportunity and increasingly caters to an ever-expanding and diverse audience. Not doing so would be a big mistake.