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COVID-19’s misleading impact on the games industry

COVID-19’s misleading impact on the games industry

COVID-19’s misleading impact on the games industry
July 10
20:15 2020

It’s truly fascinating to see how any industry reacts and acclimates to the supremely concerning realities of COVID-19, it impacts no less than any and every sub-economic market for whatever is the topic of thorough analysis.

The games industry has suffered similarly to any other, however, the situation’s led to a few outcomes worth discussing to gamers in the short-term. There is of course the reality that most, if not all showcases and expos for games this year have been canceled, due to the sheer volume of media, fandom and developer that would have been present otherwise. This cycle of events arguably keeps gamers most interested, with massive and indie reveals alike sprinkled across the several high-profile expos yearly.

It has unquestionably forced developers and publishers to rethink how they present titles going forward, and much of the fanfare and community among gamers has waned with each passing week since March. E3, Gamescom, Pax, these are the lifeblood of many smaller games’ advertising, even a single year of disruption could have many unintended outcomes for the smaller developers who have yet to secure a publisher and proper funding. They are also fantastically central for fan cultures like cosplay and the general community. Conversations regarding “game reveals” during these events spark excitement for gamers constantly, and without these milestones each year, there’s no doubt a temporary hole in every gamer’s heart right about now.

However, the games industry is one market indeed who’s been ushered into a more “all-digital” era due to the pandemic, depending on how optimistic you wish to be of course. More and more copies have been sold digitally, due in large part to people staying home and spending their time social distancing this year, and while the next 18 months to two years remain extremely uncertain for companies like Microsoft and Sony, the short term shows a growing market for an all-digital future. The conversation surrounding third-party sellers and physical manufacturing getting cut could lead to potentially cheaper digital releases. Unfortunately, this has remained a frustrating “what if” for nearly a decade. The console space and its audience have come to terms with services like Netflix and Prime Video as the primary delivery format of digital distribution. So too have companies prompted the sale and advertisement of digital copies downloaded from the comfort of your own home in lieu of many businesses, including GameStop and the like closing temporarily. While publishers continue to charge the same asking price of a physically manufactured copy, the last few months have shown a spike in digital sales regardless, and only time will tell as to how popular digital distribution will be going forward.

In the past, some companies have released cheaper variants of their consoles and removed the optical disc drive to cut costs. Likewise, Sony has even included a variant of the new PS5 without a disc drive, and one would assume they have data that lends credibility to that fiscally difficult and logistically complicated decision. Cutting out the need to physically manufacture discs, manuals, and cases should cut down on individual costs per game purchase, and with such an increase in demand, this could potentially become a reality, depending on starting prices of next-generation titles.

This has possibly quickened along with the slow death of Game Stop and physical retailers, but that could very well lead to lower prices for you, the most important variable in the equation.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Zachary Helms

Zachary Helms

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