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Coronavirus

Video game sales skyrocket during pandemic; more players online than ever

Just in time for the season, the bright Zipper T Bunny has begun visiting islands for a limited time in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Bunny Day Event.
Just in time for the season, the bright Zipper T Bunny has begun visiting islands for a limited time in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Bunny Day Event.

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The summer of 2016 seems like forever ago but Pokemon Go still is here, and Niantic has made some adjustments for players who still want to capture Pokemon while sheltering in place.

They have doubled the rate at which Pokemon appear and halved the amount of time it takes for eggs to hatch; anyone wanting to fight at a gym can probably do so from their house. The range at which gyms are accessible has increased greatly.

Pokemon Go has changed heavily since its viral beginnings but the COVID-19 outbreak has breathed new life into it, as well as the rest of the video game industry.

The timely releases of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Id Software’s Doom Eternal have led to record breaking sales for two long-running series; the American sales totals are not yet available but Nintendo estimated they sold about 3.5 times more copies of this Animal Crossing than the preceding title on the 3DS. 

Doom Eternal’s publisher, Bethesda, told Gamespot that Eternal doubled the launch sales of their previous 2016 Doom reboot, with 100,000 active daily players on the PC version, tracked using Steam, an online game store that sells digital copies and doubles as a launcher for games.

Doom Eternal also was released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with a Nintendo Switch port coming later.

Minecraft has already gained popularity with both children and educators since its release in 2011, has moved upward yet again, with 112 million players.

Minecraft already was the best-selling video game of all time, selling 180 million copies across all platforms, a number that has since grown since it was widely reported in May 2019. 

These aren’t the only series cleaning up because of COVID-19, either: League of Legends, a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena game, has 80 million active daily players.

cod.tracker.gg, an Activision-run website that tracks how many players are online in their own games and of their competitors, said in an April 10 article that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s new free-to-play Warzone game mode has reached more than 50 million players, matching Apex Legends and passing Fortnite, which is still seeing more players, hovering at 20 million. 

Official sales data by title is not yet released, as companies will typically only release specific numbers when they are required to report to stockholders. For example, Nintendo is required to report their sales numbers on May 7, according to their website.

Sales have been up across the board, according to VGChartz.com. The Nintendo Switch has sold 396,497 for the week ending April 4, with the PlayStation 4 lagging behind at 159,783: Total console sales are up 155% from this time last year, while physical game sales are up 82% and digital are up 52%.   

Another factor driving these sales increases are price cuts: PlayStation 4’s lead seller, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has been sold at a 20% discount on the PlayStation store and fairly recent releases like Dragonball: Kakarot and Borderlands 3 have been sold at a 20% discount across all digital platforms.

EA Sports titles such as NHL 20, FIFA 20 and Madden 20 are all being sold at a 60% discount. 

While some games have reached historic lows, price-wise, others are reaching a peak. With the cancellation of sports seasons, the final installments of both the NCAA Football series, which released in 2014, and the NCAA Basketball series, which last released in 2010, have skyrocketed in price on the secondary market. NCAA Football 14 is selling for between $60 and $100 on Ebay currently, and NCAA Basketball 10 is going for around $45 for a 10-year-old game. 

In the search to fill the sports void, Twitch viewership has jumped from 1.1 million viewers in December 2019 to 2.3 million viewers this month. ESPN has started filling primetime TV with professional athletes playing NBA 2K20 and Major League Baseball teams each have a player representative playing through a competitive season on MLB the Show 20.

NASCAR has began playing its season using NASCAR Heat 4.

With the stay-at-home order extended until April 30 and the likelihood of it being extended beyond, according to Gov. JB Pritzker’s Thursday news conference, it is likely to see video games continue to be used as an escape route for those stuck at home.

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