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Coronavirus Concerns Are Driving Video Game Engagement to Record Levels

By Keith Noonan - Mar 17, 2020 at 6:30PM

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Some gaming platforms and titles are seeing tailwinds as more people opt to stay home, but risk factors for the industry remain.

The novel coronavirus officially known as SARS-CoV-2 has pressured businesses and elevated global economic uncertainty, but some entertainment offerings are proving resilient as people opt to stay indoors. Valve's Steam digital video game distribution platform has posted a record number of concurrent active users in the wake of the pandemic, and there are signs that some new game releases are seeing increased engagement as a result virus-related consumer-behavior shifts. 

Activision Blizzard's (ATVI -0.44%) Call of Duty: Warzone was released as a free download on March 10 and recorded six million downloads in its first day of availability. The title's download count dumped to 15 million after three days on the market, surpassing the previous download record set by Electronic Arts' (EA 0.57%) Apex Legends and setting a new record for fastest video game download growth on console and PC platforms. 

A character skydiving in Activision Blizzard's 'Call of Duty: Warzone.'

Image source: Activision Blizzard.

What does the coronavirus mean for the video game industry?

With people opting to stay home due to concerns about the novel coronavirus, there's a good chance that top games will continue to see heightened levels of engagement. However, video game companies including Activision Blizzard, Tencent Holdings, and Electronic Arts are still seeing potential growth avenues stymied as a result of the unusual market conditions. 

Adding to a growing list of esports-event cancellations, Electronic Arts recently shut down in-person tournaments for games including FIFA and Apex Legends. The gaming industry has also seen major trade shows including E3 and GDC canceled, and having more employees work from home could impact the development of upcoming releases. Top digitally distributed software may continue to see increased engagement, but titles that depend on brick-and-mortar retail could see diminished sales, and investors shouldn't count on the gaming industry to be completely immune to the current market pressures.


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