New Study: Gamers Around the World are Spending More Time and Money on Video Games during the COVID-19 Crisis, and the Trend will likely Continue Post-Pandemic
During the global health crisis and consequent stay-at-home orders, gamers are increasingly opting for more multi-player games with greater social interaction. Streaming is also on the rise among the majority of gamers, including 23 percent of those who had never watched gaming streams prior to coronavirus lockdowns.
[San Francisco, CA], [August 11, 2020] The Global Gaming Study: Impacts of COVID-19* conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global strategy and marketing consulting firm, and Dynata, an independent market research institute, revealed that gamers are playing more video games (30 percent growth in gamers playing more than five hours per week); spending more money on video games (39 percent growth in monthly spend); playing new types of games, including those focused on multiplayer (60 percent of gamers playing new games); and streaming more video game content (42 percent growth in gamers viewing video game streams). The study, based on a representative sample of more than 13,000 individuals across 17 countries during the months of May and June, also indicated that these changes are likely to persist even after all lockdowns are lifted.
Gamers are investing more money during COVID-19 lockdowns
Globally, COVID-19 gave rise to a 39 percent increase in monthly spend for video games, and this increase is projected to stay elevated at 21 percent higher even after all lockdown restrictions have lifted. As a result of the highly elevated monthly spend, the global gaming market size is expected to increase by 12-15 percent year over year, which is more than 50 percent higher than analyst estimates. In the US, a 13 percent increase in monthly spend amongst those who play video games was observed during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, and this increase is expected to stay elevated by 13 percent even once the crisis is resolved (the average monthly spend for video games in the US before COVID-19 was $16/month – it increased to $18/month during COVID-19 and is expected to remain at $18/month after the pandemic).
“This increase in monthly spend for video games was consistent across gamers of almost all age groups from 13 to 84 years old, making the gaming industry one of the bright spots in an economy that has been drastically battered by the global pandemic,” says Lisa Jäger, media expert and Partner at Simon-Kucher. “COVID-19 has been an energizer for the gaming industry – quarantine policies exacerbated existing trends, accelerated structural changes, and massively increased the popularity of an already fast-growing industry. We expect several companies to outperform their 2020 forecasted earnings.”
An increased investment in time as well
The largest shift amongst gamers in terms of time-spent is from ‘casual gamers’ (e.g. those who play less than five hours per week) to ‘gamers’ (e.g. those who play five to 20 hours) and ‘serious gamers’ (e.g. those who play more than 20 hours per week). Of those surveyed who indicated that they already play video games, the percentage of gamers and serious gamers jumped from 63 percent to 82 percent during COVID-19, and is expected to settle at 74 percent even after social distancing measures are relaxed and the economy recovers. This means an 11 percent permanent shift of those who play video games to those higher gaming segments.
“This shift to more hours spent gaming suggests monetization metrics that scale with usage could see an uptick,” says Nick Zarb, Partner at Simon-Kucher. “Given the larger amount of time being dedicated to gaming, we expect consumers to be more willing to invest in their new pastime, either in small increments through microtransactions, or larger purchases such as when the new consoles are released later this year.”
Gaming…the ultimate channel for socializing during social distancing
The majority of gamers surveyed (60 percent) indicated that they are playing different games during COVID-19, shifting away from games with shorter sessions to games that are more involved, take more time, and have more social interactions. The biggest changes were increased interest in Fighting games, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games, and Battle Royale games, all of which typically have heavy multi-player components. In the US, this change was especially found in Battle Royale games, a game type made popular by Epic Games’ Fortnite – they saw a 143 percent increase during COVID-19 shelter-in-place, a larger shift than any other country saw.
“While under stay-at-home orders, video games are providing an enticing way to socialize with friends, and even strangers who share similar gaming interests,” says Jäger. “Due to the length of the COVID-19 shutdowns and the frequency with which social gamers play with one another, it is likely that gamers using video games for social interaction will continue to do so, regardless of lockdowns or not, and this increased focus on social interaction will be a trend with significant impact on the gaming industry for the foreseeable future.”
Streaming is on the rise
Gamers are also showing an increased interest in watching video game streams with more than 80 percent of gamers indicating they watch streams during lockdowns, as compared to only 57 percent before. This growing trend seems to appeal to different age groups for different reasons, with younger streamers (those less than 25) focused primarily on streaming for entertainment purposes, and older streamers (those over 25) more focused on skill improvement.
“As video game streaming becomes further integrated into daily life, it will be interesting to see whether direct, interactive streaming (i.e. payments from viewers directly affecting the streamer’s gameplay) becomes bundled into games so viewers can participate and do more than just cheer on their favorites,” says Zarb. “It will also be interesting to see if game publishers take advantage of the different demographic interests in streaming to better target their ad spend. One way or another, streaming is here to stay and it will continue to have a significant and lasting impact on the gaming industry and the way it approaches monetization.”
Full study report available upon request
*About the study: The Global Gaming Study: Impacts of COVID-19 was conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners and Dynata in May—June, 2020. More than 13,000 people across 17 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States) were surveyed about their gaming preferences and behaviors.
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