As the lockdown begins to ease around cities and businesses start opening up,
Gaming is one of the few industries to have thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic. As hundreds of millions of people around the world find themselves confined to their homes, more and more of them are turning to games — whether on mobile, PC or home consoles — for entertainment. “The lockdown acted as a catalyst to change a lot of mindsets about gaming. More people have now opened up to it, and that is reflecting in the demand for games and consoles,” says Prosenjit Ghosh, national head of the PlayStation Division at Sony India. “Many fence-sitters have now jumped into gaming.”
Aditya Wadhwani is a testament to this trend. “I’d been on the fence about buying a Nintendo Switch for a long time. But once the lockdown hit, I found myself sitting at home a lot, and I felt it was the right time to take the plunge,” says the digital marketing professional.
According to analytics firm Newzoo, despite the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, gaming is set to grow at a rate of 9.3 per cent to $159.3 billion in 2020, making it bigger than the film and music industries combined. “Despite losing out on sales in April, the run we’ve had in May and June has been the highest we’ve ever seen. It’s been historic. In many ways, this summer has seen the mainstreaming of console gaming,” Ghosh says.
The shutting down of retail and e-commerce also pushed many gamers down the digital route. “We saw a huge surge in sales of digital products during the lockdown. We’ve achieved the kind of digital sales that we would have probably expected to see one or two years down the line,” says
Much of this growth is fuelled by online gaming, thanks to the availability of casual mobile titles such as Ludo King as well as high-quality free games such as PUBG, Fortnite and Call of Duty across multiple platforms that have lowered the barrier to entry. Many have rediscovered their love for gaming thanks to the additional time on their hands.
“When the lockdown had just begun, I was between jobs for a while, and that’s when I really got back into gaming,” says Wadhwani, who divides his gaming time between a
While Wadhwani prefers single-player games such as Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, he has found himself playing online games more and more during the lockdown, whether it’s FIFA 20 on PS4 or PUBG on mobile. Similarly, for Harjas Singh Kochar, a fan of single-player games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Persona 5 and Death Stranding, the months of isolation led him to explore online games as a way to socialise with others. “I really enjoyed going back to my backlog of single-player games in the early days of the lockdown. But as time went by, being at home all the time made me seek outside interaction, and multiplayer games like Call of Duty and Destiny 2 allowed me to meet my friends online,” the 21-year-old computer application student says.
For many others, online multiplayer games have always been the main draw. Adit Salian, who earlier spent three-tofour hours a day playing games like Rainbow Six Siege and Super Smash Bros Ultimate, has almost doubled his gaming time during the lockdown. “I usually play with random players from around the world, but a few of them have now become my friends. And I’ve gone from playing in the evenings to now starting earlier in the day; usually from 4 pm to 9 pm,” says the 21-year-old visual communications student.
For Ishaan Khatar too, online gaming became a great way to connect with friends when he was forced to return to the city from Dubai, where he was pursuing his MBA. “I used to game a lot when I first got my game console five years ago, but after that, I’d only game once in a couple of months. With the lockdown, I really got back into it and started playing every other day,” he says. “It started with Grand Theft Auto Online because many of my friends were playing it. I also started trying out a lot of other games, such as Dauntless and Star Wars Battlefront 2, because I have so much time. I would never have been able to try these games out otherwise.”
But despite having a lot more time during the day, most gamers continue to prefer night-time for online multiplayer sessions. “Even though everyone is at home, some friends work during the day, so we can only play without any interruptions post-dinner,” says Khatar. “It’s like being on vacation again, when we would game online till 3 am,” Shiv adds.
With all the free time on their hands, a lot of people have also been dusting off their old game consoles to get back to gaming. “One of the surprising trends during the lockdown has been the demand for games for older devices, like PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii,” says Khemani. “This is unique to this period, so we’re seeing a lot people who may have stopped gaming over the years jumping back in.”
Both Khemani and Ghosh also point to a sharp rise in the demand for game controllers, indicating that family members are getting in on the action. Asked what his family felt about his renewed interest in gaming, Khatar says, “They’re just happy that I have something to do to occupy my time. My dad even asked me to teach him to play a few games, since he has more free time now that he’s working from home. I made him play some GTA too.”
POPULAR DURING THE LOCKDOWN
► Ludo King (Android, iOS)
► PUBG Mobile (Android, iOS)
► Grand Theft Auto Online (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
► FIFA 20 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
► Call of Duty Mobile (Android, iOS)
The lockdown acted as a catalyst to change a lot of mindsets about gaming. More people have now opened up to it
–Prosenjit Ghosh, national head, PlayStation Division, Sony India