Over the year that hosted a life-changing pandemic, one of the stand-out features of lockdown life was video games. With many groups of friends playing games with each other to keep in touch during isolation, video games broke through the monotony and loneliness of quarantining. How exactly did COVID-19 benefit the games industry - and how did it weaken it?

At the very start of the pandemic, just before the first lockdown, Nintendo and Microsoft released two highly anticipated games; Animal Crossing: New Horizons, developed by Nintendo, and Doom Eternal, a Microsoft exclusive game. Animal Crossing has become the second-highest selling game on the Nintendo Switch, selling 26.04 million units, while also breaking the record for most copies sold in a month for a console game, totalling 5 million copies on the 20th of April. It was praised by critics for being a welcome escape from lockdown and an excellent game to use to socialise with others. Doom Eternal received similar levels of praise for its level design and combat. It came out of March with 3 million copies, at second behind Animal Crossing. However, Sony, the minds behind the PlayStation, had no standout games to release at the beginning of the pandemic. This leads to an obvious conclusion; how could Sony profit from the pandemic if no games were being released? Sony’s gaming department made $4.9 million in revenue in 2020, falling far behind Nintendo’s $12.1 billion and Microsoft’s $12.9 billion. Whilst the others broke records with their pandemic-profiting games, Sony was left in the dust. However, there is a reason for the lack of PlayStation content. I believe they were preparing for the launch of the new console, the PlayStation 5, which came out in November, and decided not to release any triple-A games (a game made by an established publisher, usually selling for upwards of £40). Despite Sony’s lack of notable releases during early lockdown, they appear to have come out on top during the holiday period. The PS5 sold twice as much as the Xbox Series X, made by Sony’s competitor Microsoft, over their first 8 weeks, clearly beating Microsoft and producing much more profit in the process. Sony’s decision to give titles such as Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demons’ Souls to the PS5 was a good choice, considering the Series X’s lack of such high-profile games on their console. So far, Sony, despite a rough beginning to 2020, has beaten Microsoft for the more successful next-gen console. Their decision to hold back on big-budget games due to the impending release of the PS5 was clearly the right one.

The coronavirus’ impact on gaming was immense. Many games, such as Cyberpunk 2077, developed by CD Projekt Red for all platforms, or The Last of Us Part II, a PS4 exclusive developed by Naughty Dog, were delayed for months due to restrictions set by governments. However, much of the coronavirus’ effect was positive. Due to necessary quarantining, games became a hobby of many, and record-breaking sales prove this. However, we can’t know for sure what 2021 will bring, so games companies must be ready to adapt to whatever Covid-19 brings to the table next.