Its a great big world out there, and most of us missed a lot of it during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it turns out that there’s also a great big world inside people’s computers, one that they entered avidly during the lockdown months, and it can be pretty irresistible too. Game manufacturers are determined to keep this virtual world well populated, even when gamers have more chances to visit the real world.

In more quantifiable terms, when COVID-19 surged, so did interest in playing videogames at home, such that U.S. consumers spent an astonishing $59.6 billion on videogames and hardware between March 2020 and March 2021. This spending represented a 32 percent increase from the year before. Worldwide, sales rose by 25 percent during 2020.

But will such levels of interest persist, if people can safely move about and are no longer constrained to shelter at home. Investors seem skeptical, but the manufacturers of videogames believe the new normal has plenty of lives left to keep the game going.

According to the CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software, because the pandemic introduced new gamers to the medium, the videogame industry now has access to a larger, already primed target group of consumers to which it can market its offerings. A larger market is nearly always beneficial for an industry, even if it includes consumers who come into it through diverse ways. Once a consumer has invested several hundreds of dollars to obtain a Playstation 5 console or Nintendo Switch, they are likely to keep playing, as well as purchasing new games to add to their collection, rather than risking the pain of feeling like their expenditure was wasted, were they to stop playing.

To take advantage of this benefit, imposed by circumstances outside their control, most major game manufacturers have announced plans to release some particularly hot titles this year. They already had innovated advanced hardware and consoles, offering better graphics and game play than ever has been available in the past. These high-performance gadgets make gaming a deeply engrossing, engaging pastime. Even if people can go back out into the big wide world, they might find that, with the right tools and toys, the virtual world available at home is just as appealing.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are consumers likely to keep playing videogames, even when they can undertake other leisure pastimes in the post-pandemic era? Or is the market more likely to suffer some contraction?
  2. What makes gaming so engaging and appealing for consumers?

Source: Dan Gallagher, “Pandemic Videogame Habits Might Be Hard to Break,” The Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2021; Noah Smith, “The Giants of the Video Game Industry Have Thrived in the Pandemic. Can the Success Continue?” Washington Post, May 12, 2020; Mike Minotti, “What the Gaming Industry Should Expect in a Post-Pandemic World,” VentureBeat, April 28, 2021; Wallace Witkowski, “Gamers Spent Billions More on Videogames During the Pandemic and Companies Are Looking for More,” Marketwatch, May 3, 2021