It has been over a hundred days since the Mar. 13 email went out all over the country to students urging them to not return to campuses after spring break. During these hundred days, I, like many others, have turned to video games to fill my time.
The numbers reflect this: data collected by Verizon found that video game play time peaked at a new all-time high and that there was a 75% increase in video game usage since the quarantine began. The beginning of the quarantine video game space was dominated by Nintendo who coincidentally had scheduled the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons for March 20, 2020. This resulted in raking in the largest game launch of the year and a mass sellout of Nintendo Switches worldwide.
While other game publishers rushed to put out updates and changes to their games, Naughty Dog delayed their long-awaited sequel to its graphically appealing game, The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak game released in 2013.
The sequel was released on June 19, 2020, and now sits atop the charts as the fastest-selling Playstation4 game in history narrowly beating out Uncharted 4 by 1 percent.
The online gaming experiences created by Epic Games, Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Activision, Naughty Dog and more immerse players in a designed world unlike ours. The games allow players to disassociate from quarantine and encourage communication with friends.
Playing is fun for a while until you stumble on the streaming platforms. Twitch, a streaming platform owned by Amazon, accounted for 72% of total hours streamed during the first quarter of 2020 with a record 3,114.1 million hours watched.
However, Twitch is not the only streaming giant that got the benefit of boosted watch time. YouTube Gaming saw a 13% increase in hours viewed and Facebook Gaming increased by over 20% in total hours watched. However, the ballooning of the streaming space burst when it came to Microsoft owned platform Mixer.
Mixer’s first quarter numbers showed a decrease in viewership by 7% this quarter, a trend that has continued since before lockdown’s started.
An interview with Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, head of gaming, indicated that the company knew that Mixer had always been trailing behind the other streaming giants and would never corner the market in subscriber numbers that Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming services all had. In a move made by Microsoft on June 22, 2020 it was announced that Mixer as a platform was being terminated and that all existing viewers and streamers alike were being directed to its new partner, Facebook Gaming services.
This partnership appears to have been forged through Microsoft’s upcoming xCloud game streaming service. However, it is not clear at this time how Facebook Gaming will play a role, if at all. Microsoft exclusive streamers are being given their contract payouts and are back on the market for all other platforms.
As the gaming world continues to evolve and explode, there can only be speculation as to whether their grip on the audience will remain once the world attempts a return to normalcy.