Impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on the video game industry

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The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic had a substantial impact on the video game industry. The video game industry was impacted by the outbreak in various ways, most often due to concerns over travel to and from China or elsewhere or related to slowdowns in the manufacturing processes within China.


In contrast to many other economic sectors that are drastically affected by the pandemic, the video game industry was generally more resilient to the pandemic. Most video game developers, publishers and operators were able to maintain operations with employees working from home to sustain game development and digital releases. Further, with many people globally at home and unable to work, online gaming saw the record numbers of players during the pandemic as a popular activity to counter social distancing, a practice recommended by the World Health Organization[1] which helped to boost revenues for many companies.[2][3]

There were still negative impacts on the industry, notably with major trade events like the E3 2020 cancelled or postponed which may impact relationships between the smaller developers and publishers. Further, many esport leagues had to alter plans for their games, transitioning from live events to remote play or cancellation altogether. The origin of the pandemic in China is also expected to impact the supply chains for electronics for the year which may limit hardware availability once the pandemic relaxed. This may impact plans for Microsoft and Sony to release their next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 in the part of the year.[4]

Events affected by pandemic


  • ESL Pro League Season 11, a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament was originally going to be an offline event with the finals taking place at Denver, Colorado, United States. However, due to the global coronavirus pandemic, ESL announced that the both the regular season and the finals will be split into two regions: Europe and North America and that regular season and the finals will be played entirely online.[5]
  • The League of Legends Championship Series and the League of Legends European Championship were temporarily suspended on March 13 and resumed play as an online-based format on March 20.[6]
  • The Overwatch League, having planned to bring Homestand events in its 2020 season, cancelled those occurring in China and moved them to later in the season to South Korea. Some of the China-based teams relocated their training groups to Korea or elsewhere as well.[7] Later, Blizzard cancelled and rescheduled those South Korean matches due to the spread of the coronavirus to that country.[8] On March 31, the Overwatch League announced that they were abandoning the Homestand model entirely in favor of moving matches for the remainder of the season online.[9]
  • The ongoing series of the 2020 Pokémon World Championships was cancelled by The Pokémon Company including its North American (scheduled for June 26–28) and Global (scheduled for August 14–16) events.[10]
  • The live Rocket League World Championship for its 9th season, planned for April 24, 2020 in Dallas was indefinitely postponed.[11]

Other events

  • The Taipei Game Show, planned from February 6–9, 2020 was postponed until June 25–28, 2020,[12][13] but was canceled in March 2020 due to the escalation of the coronavirus.[14]
  • The Mobile World Congress, to have been held in Barcelona, Spain in March 2020 was cancelled as several of the China-based vendors had to cancel plans.[15]
  • Several vendors withdrew or scaled the plans back to present at PAX East in Boston at the end of February 2020 including Sony Interactive Entertainment, Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Capcom, CD Projekt and PUBG Corporation.[16][17][18][19]
  • Similarly, several companies pulled out from the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco in March 2020, forcing the organizers to postpone the show until later in 2020.[20][21] However, the event organizers devised a scheme to run the GDC as a virtual conference following a similar schedule across the same set of days by using the streaming services with a subset of the planned events that are presented through the streaming media and was made available online a week later. This included the Game Developers Choice Awards and Independent Games Festival presentations.[22]
  • The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said as of early March 2020 that it was still planning to hold E3 2020 despite states of emergencies declared in both California and Los Angeles Counties.[23] However, on March 11, 2020, the ESA affirmed that they cancelled the physical E3 show amid thew fears of the outbreak as they are looking to arrange for virtual presentations from its exhibitors.[24] However, by April 2020, the ESA determined that the logistics of arranging a virtual event was too difficult due to disruptions from the pandemic, fully cancelling the show in 2020, but with plans in place to return in 2021. The ESA offered the E3 website to help partners to support product announcements in lieu of the E3 show.[25]
  • The 16th British Academy Games Awards, normally presented at a ceremony in London are moved to a live streamed event due to concerns over the coronavirus.[26]
  • Other game-related conventions, expositions and trade shows that were cancelled or postponed included:

Hardware and software releases

  • Several games were delayed due to the coronavirus and the remote working conditions of developers including:
  • Some games also received early releases in certain regions:
    • At GameStop in the United States, Doom Eternal was released a day prior to its official release date to separate the crowds from those purchasing Animal Crossing: New Horizons (As both games were officially released on March 20).[37]
    • AFL Evolution 2 will be released on April 16, 2020, a week prior to its original release date. To reduce physical contact, physical copies of the game will initially be sold through online retailers only.[38]
    • Final Fantasy VII Remake was shipped early to Europe and Australia so the players that are living in the "countries that are currently facing the biggest disruption" would be able to play the game on its launch day.[39]
  • Ring Fit Adventure which involves physical activity by using special accessories saw high demand in China as a result of the quarantine as the residents sought something for physical activity, leading to shortages and price gouging in the Asia and nearby regions.[40] Similar shortages for the game expanded as quarantines and stay-at-home orders came to many Western locations during the month of March 2020.[41]


Because much of the world were asked to stay home to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, video game playing and other Internet use grew greatly from March 2020. Steam, the main digital storefront for personal computer video games saw over 23 million concurrent players during March 2020, surpassing all previous records[42] while the streaming service, Twitch saw over 3 billion hours of content watched over the first quarter of 2020, a 20% increase from the previous year's.[43] GeForce Now capacity was temporarily exhausted in Europe before additional server capacity was added.[44]

The additional bandwidth from video games and other Internet services created concerns that critical bandwidth would not be available for medical and other key infrastructure elements necessary to mitigate the coronavirus.[45] To help reduce demand during peak hours, the Akamai content delivery network for many video games[46] and major digital storefronts such as Xbox Live,[47] PlayStation Network[48][49] and Steam[50] capped download speeds and encouraged the users to download at off-peak hours.

Hardware production

  • Nintendo Switch production in Vietnam had been scaled back due to reduced supply of components out of China due to production slowdown from the quarantines. As a result, supplies of the Switch were significantly reduced in Japan and with retailers fearing similar shortages in Europe and North America.[51]
  • Nintendo of America closed its repair centers as a preventative measure. The company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington and the flagship store in New York City were also closed.[52]
  • Valve announced that its production on the Valve Index virtual reality headset was reduced due to the impact of the coronavirus and would have fewer shipments expected than planned by the release of Half-Life: Alyx.[53]
  • Konami delayed release of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini in March due to production chain issues in China due to the coronavirus.[54]
  • Atari delayed the Atari VCS that was initially supposed to release in March 2020 due to the coronavirus.[55]


  • 2012 game Plague Inc. by Ndemic Creations saw a large boost in sales as a result of the coronavirus. The game temporarily became the top-paid app on several regional app stores beating out the perennial Minecraft. Some analysts believed[who?] that those worried about the coronavirus used the game to see that it could spread as a means to placate their fears.[56] While the game was based on scientific models of the spread of contagious diseases, Ndemic had to remind the players that the game was not meant to be taken as an accurate model for transmission and spread and referred those interested to the Centers for Disease Control and other national and international health organization websites.[57][58] Later, Ndemic added a new gameplay mode to Plague Inc, with the goal to try to stop an ongoing pandemic through various possible options by using the work that it developed in coordination with WHO and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. Further, Ndemic donated US$250,000 to the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to help fight the pandemic and encouraged the players of the game to do the same.[59]
  • The 2018 digital adaption of Pandemic by Asmodee saw sales boosts.[56]
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons outperformed industry expectations, selling more in its opening week in the United Kingdom than all of the previous launches in the franchise combined for the same region.[60]


  • The North American video game chain, GameStop and its Canadian subsidiary, EB Games came under criticism for its overall response to the coronavirus pandemic. Notably, it received widespread criticism when, after numerous states and provinces issued "stay at home" or "shelter in place" orders requiring non-essential businesses to close up starting in March 2020, that it considered its stores an essential business, stating that they provided a "significant need for technology solutions". The chain later revised this decision, closing most locations and leaving only select stores open to provide drive-up delivery of online or by-phone orders to the customers.[61][62][63][64]
  • CeX closed all its corporate stores in the United Kingdom on March 23 and asked the franchises to do the same.[65]
  • Game X Change, a regional game retailer based in Arkansas, attracted criticism for keeping the retail locations open in areas with stay at home orders.[66]

Industry trade bodies

  • The Japanese game ratings body Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) was forced to close operations from early April through at least May 7, which is expected to delay some releases in Japan as they await a rating for retail release.[67]

Industry support of mitigation and relief efforts


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