Archive for the ‘Game Articles’ Category

Gamers who lost income because of the pandemic actually spent more money on games, Comparecards survey found

by Samson Amore via The Wrap

Video game enthusiasts spent roughly $400 on games and accessories since March, according to new data from LendingTree subsidiary Comparecards.

That’s about one-third of value of the $1,200 stimulus check that the government issued to some Americans in April to offset wage losses brought on by the coronavirus.

Comparecards surveyed roughly 1,000 Americans in June and found that 25% of gamers have upped their spending on gaming since the pandemic began. “Nearly 1 in 4 consumers are spending more on gaming now than they were prior to March 2020, when varied levels of stay-at-home orders were implemented across the country,” Comparecards reported.

28% of those surveyed spent money on boxed or digital video games within the last year. 25% of gamers said they spent money on in-app purchases — which includes expansion packs within a game, or in-game currency.

LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz told TheWrap a combination of in-home boredom and extra pandemic benefits is leading consumers of games to up their spending.

“It makes a lot of sense that people are spending more on gaming. People have a lot more spare time and some of them even have a little more money in their pockets than normal because of government stimulus checks and extra unemployment benefits,” said Schulz. “More spare time plus more money on hand equals a lot more gaming for a lot of folks.”

“It can be totally OK to spend a bit more than usual on your passions during these crazy times,” Schulz said. “Gaming is a major stress reliever for many, many people, and that’s a really important thing during the pandemic. When that spending gets dangerous is when you do it without any thought to your budget or to your debt.”

About 17% of people surveyed said they’d bought a game console in the last year, while 10% reported spending on gaming headsets. Roughly half the Americans surveyed said they didn’t spend any money on games or gaming hardware last year.

The report also found that gamers facing a loss of income because of the coronavirus pandemic actually tended to spend more money on games, despite the lack of disposable income. “The average gamer whose income was impacted spent about $424 on gaming since the pandemic started, while gamers whose income wasn’t impacted spent just under $360,” Comparecards said.

Comparecards broke down the spending by age and gender, finding that 37% of men versus 10% of women reported increasing their gaming spend in the last 90 days. Baby Boomers are the least interested in video games, and their spending only increased 2% — compared to a 37% increase in spending by Millenials.

“While video games are a beloved pastime for many gamers, consumers who don’t typically play games have begun to see the appeal while social distancing, as half of all consumers made at least one gaming-related purchase within the past year,” Comparecards noted. “Men in particular, as well as millennials and members of Gen Z, are more likely than others to have spent money on gaming.”

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by Shingo ITO via AFP

Tokyo (AFP) – Every day, 90-year-old Japanese grandma Hamako Mori flexes her fingers to keep them nimble. Not for knitting or needlepoint, but to keep them in shape for playing video games.

The pensioner known as “Gamer Grandma” spends three or more hours a day battling monsters and going on missions in the virtual worlds of her favourite games, and even has a popular YouTube channel for her fans.

“I’m passionate about playing games every day,” the white-haired widow told AFP in an interview conducted by videochat.

“Every day is an enjoyable day,” she said, describing eviscerating on-screen foes as a fantastic stress reliever.

Mori cuts an elegant, mild-mannered figure, with her hair pulled back into a ponytail and a pair of large glasses perched on her nose.

She begins the videos she posts on her YouTube channel with a friendly “Konnichiwa” and a bow.

But her grandmotherly demeanour disappears when she plays, transformed into a gun-toting character in Call of Duty or a sword-wielding android in NieR: Automata.

Mori, who lives in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo with her family, holds a Guinness World Record certifying her as the world’s oldest gaming YouTuber.

“She always gets into the games,” her only grandchild, 43-year-old Keisuke Nagao, told AFP.

“I think she is slightly different. Ordinary old people are not so enthusiastic about video games as she is.”

– 300,000 YouTube fans –

Mori isn’t new to the gaming world, and has played some 200 titles since she took up the hobby some four decades ago.

Her first console was a Cassette Vision, which she bought in 1981 after being intrigued by her children’s obsession with gaming.

“I discovered that there was this fascinating thing that existed in the world,” she said.

She has played most of the gaming world’s smash hits including “Super Mario Brothers”, “Dragon Quest”, “Final Fantasy” and “Call of Duty”, and admits to sometimes staying up until 2am when she is sucked into a session.

Her favorite games include action-adventure series “Grand Theft Auto” and popular fantasy role-playing game “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”.

“You can do whatever you want to” in a game, she said, describing them as a “motivation in life.”


Mori usually plays alone at home, but launched a YouTube channel in 2014 to connect with other gamers.

She posts new videos filmed by her grandson three or four times a month and has attracted 300,000 subscribers and millions of views with content featuring her gaming but also showing her daily life.

“It’s fun being watched by a lot of people, rather than playing alone,” she said of her “Gamer Grandma” channel.

Among her videos is one showing her blowing out candles on a cake to celebrate her 90th birthday with her family. Another features her “unboxing” a brand-new PlayStation console.

At 90, Mori is fighting fit, but she says some state-of-the-art games require agile hand motions that can prove challenging.

“It’s getting hard. It really is,” she said, describing exercises she does with her fingers and hands every day to keep herself game-ready.

– ‘Better than doing nothing!’ –

But she has no intention of giving up gaming.

“I won’t put it down just because it’s difficult… It’s better than doing nothing!”

And she hopes with practice she can improve further.

“I want to play well no matter how old I am,” she said. “I want to continue as long as possible.”

Mori is something of an evangelist for video games, and encourages other older people to get into gaming, or find other hobbies that keep them going.

“It doesn’t have to be video games necessarily. But it’s good to do something,” said Mori, who swam regularly until the age of 80 and still knits.

And while Mori said she understands concerns about video game addiction, particularly among young people, she pointed out that gaming may have helped many survive lockdowns over the coronavirus.

“It’s safer to play at home, rather than going out,” she said.

For now, Mori is eagerly awaiting the release of the PlayStation 5, due to hit shops later this year.

“It’s seriously preoccupying me,” she said. “I want one. I really do.”

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by Rich Duprey via The Motley Fool

GameStop (NYSE:GME) business was hurting even before the COVID-19 outbreak, so a pandemic bursting on the scene that closed all nonessential retail should have brought it to its knees, if not killed it off.

While the conventional wisdom says the migration of video game play to digital and downloads has the retailer biding its time until the console upgrade cycle kicks in, a new report suggests that not only has the coronavirus not done in GameStop, it may have actually taught it how to thrive in this new economy.


Nothing to do but kick back and play

With schools closed, businesses shuttered, and everyone on lockdown and in self-isolation, video game sales and gameplay are soaring.

Spending on hardware, software, and accessories had been in decline as people waited for the newest consoles and the games to go with them: Sales fell 26% and 29%, respectively, in January and February. But NPD Group says they reversed course in March.

As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and people practiced social distancing, hardware sales surged 63% for the month compared to a year ago while software jumped 34%. Accessories rose 12% year over year.

The report said it was “the highest reported spend for a March month since the $1.8 billion achieved in March 2008.”

Switching up expectations

All three console makers saw strong growth in the first quarter, with hardware sales exploding to $461 million in March alone and the Nintendo (OTC:NTDOY) Switch, a hybrid portable game console, being the biggest winner, setting a record for hardware unit sales that more than doubled from a year ago.

Even Microsoft‘s Xbox One and Sony‘s Playstation 4 grew by 25%.

GameStop became the big beneficiary, particularly because the Switch was not readily available on other platforms, though even it ran into supply problems.

And the hottest game was Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was available only on the Switch, beating out Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which is available on multiple platforms.

The destination location online

While GameStop initially tried to say its stores were essential and kept them open, it needn’t have risked the ire of its employees, the public, or politicians, as online sales through the video game retailer’s website soared 1,500% between March 1 and April 10, according to data from Earnest Research.

So strong were GameStop’s sales that it was able to handily surpass all other electronics retailers, including AppleBest Buy, and Newegg.

It turns out that GameStop’s history as the go-to retail store for hardware and video games still translates well with consumers when they’re forced to look online.

GameStop needs to build on that reputation in the future, and the coronavirus pandemic may have provided the blueprint for it to do so.

Building on the momentum

It’s probably too soon to say GameStop is out of the woods and that after the upgrade cycle completes it won’t just revert to form.

Yet the video game retailer is under pressure from activist investors who are pushing a comprehensive series of changes that could help move GameStop away from being primarily a physical retailer and more toward digital game sales.

Such sales will only continue to grow, so GameStop needs to go where its business is heading. It got a major assist from a terrible illness and it would be a shame to waste the chance it has been given. Now GameStop needs to show it has learned this important lesson.

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by Brian Womack via Dallas Business Journal

GameStop Corp. is cutting back on pay amid the challenges with COVID-19 – with the bigger cuts earmarked for the higher-ups.

The troubled Grapevine retailer (NYSE: GME) is temporarily reducing the salary of CEO George Sherman by 50 percent, the company said in a statement. There is a 30 percent reduction for CFO Jim Bell and the remainder of the executive leadership team.

“Certain other employees” across its units also will get cuts of between 10 percent and 30 percent temporarily. GameStop offered “certain” corporate support staff the option to temporarily furlough or take a reduced work week or pay program.

GameStop is looking for ways to find traction amid the onslaught of COVID-19 and the restrictions that have been put on its sites under shelter-in-place rules.

Since the company closed stores to the public on March 22, it retained more than 90 percent of planned sales volumes in the two thirds of the stores conducting curbside operations. Still, comparable store sales for the nine-week period ended April 4 dropped about 23 percent.

“We believe our aggressive focus on expense, inventory and capital expenditure reductions will help preserve our financial health as we work to ensure readiness and ramp up operations as soon as conditions allow,” Sherman said in a prepared statement. “The situation remains very fluid and a great deal of uncertainty remains, however, we entered into this time with a strong balance sheet and believe that we have sufficient cash and liquidity for the foreseeable future.”

With retail under pressure, the company did not make a portion of certain lease payments and remains in discussions with landlords.

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I’ve been seated in this exact position for roughly a month now. (Image: Dan Howley)
by Daniel Howley, Technical Editor, Yahoo Finance

The majority of Americans are currently under some form of stay-at-home order, meaning we’re all spending a whole lot more time getting reacquainted with our couches. And with that extra down time, more people are turning to video games — especially as they look to distract themselves from the tragedy outside their doors.

Look no further than the record number of people simultaneously using Valve’s massive Steam gaming platform for proof that gaming is offering people a needed outlet to pass the time and stay in contact with friends and family.

But what if you’re new to gaming, and don’t know what to start with? Or are looking to get back into gaming after a hiatus? Then you’ve come to the right place. Because I’ve got a list of new titles that offer something for everyone who needs to take their mind off the outside world.

‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ – PS4


‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ is, well, a remake of the classic JRPG with dramatically improved visuals and a far larger story. (Image: Square Enix)

Oh, mamma! “Final Fantasy VII Remake,” is, well, the long-awaited remake of the quintessential JRPG (Japanese role-playing game), “Final Fantasy VII.” Originally released for the PlayStation back in 1997, “FFVII,” as it’s known, is one of the most influential games in history thanks to its fantastic story and addictive gameplay.

Fans have been pining for “FFVII Remake” for years, and with the game finally available, it’s the perfect time to jump on it. Packing stunning graphics and a new real-time combat system, the game is a major technical upgrade.

The remake only goes through the first 4 to 5 hours of the original “FFVII” story, but expands it to 40 hours by adding a dump truck load of new content. Square Enix, the game’s developer, will be releasing additional chapters of the game in the future.

‘Doom Eternal’ – PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch


‘Doom Eternal’ is the follow-up to 2016’s ‘Doom’ and features more over the top demon-crushing awesomeness than you can handle. (Image: Bethesda)

Good, old-fashioned demon-destroying mayhem. That should be the tagline for “Doom Eternal,” the follow-up to 2016’s outrageous reboot of the “Doom” franchise. What should you expect from this first-person shooter game set in a world overrun by demons?

How about a nonstop heavy metal riff-powered mad dash through stages of some of the most punishing combat you can imagine. We’re talking about running chainsaws through Possessed Soldiers, pulling the eyes out of Cacodemons, and blasting the limbs from Hell Knights.

Everything about “Doom Eternal” takes the franchise’s demon-slaying insanity, cranks it up to 13, and tosses the dial into a hell pit. “Doom Eternal” isn’t just nonstop craziness, though. The game offers smartly designed levels, and the controls are airtight for the kind of fast paced combat the title is known for. It’s a challenging few hours that are time well spent.

‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ – Switch


‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ is one of the most relaxing, easy going games you can play. As long as you can get your hands on a Switch. (Image: Nintendo)

From stomping demon skulls to one of the most relaxing games to launch this year, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” for the Nintendo (NTDOY) Switch is, at its heart, a world-building game. But the world you build — a deserted island that transforms into a luxurious destination drawing celebrities like crooner K.K. Slider — is so cute and inviting that you feel compelled to keep playing.

You’ll do everything from build essential tools like shovels, axes, and fishing rods, to filling a museum’s exhibit halls with dinosaur fossils, constructing roads, sculpting the landscape itself, and decorating your own home.

With “New Horizon’s” online connectivity, you can even fly off and spend time on your friends’ islands, selling your own wares, and buying items not found on your little bit of paradise. I’ve been playing this game for weeks, and I still instinctively grab my Switch every time I plop down on the couch so I can check up on my townspeople.

‘Persona 5 Royal’ – PS4


A favorite in my home, ‘Persona 5 Royal’ is an enhanced version of the 2017 original, and features new characters and bosses. Prepare to lose more than 100 hours of your life. (Image: Atlus)

I’m admittedly biased in including “Persona 5 Royal” on this list, because my wife and I are massive fans of the original version of this game, “Persona 5,” released in 2017. “Persona 5 Royal” adds quality-of-life changes to this 100-hour plus JRPG focused on high school students going to class, getting after-school jobs for spare cash, and fighting demons in a parallel dimension called the metaverse.

“Royal” also brings along a new character who teams up with your group of teenage vigilantes. These teens are seeking justice against adults whose desires for wealth, power, and control over others have poisoned their hearts. That’s where you and your friends, The Phantom Thieves, come in.

You’ll battle it out across various dungeons, capturing demons, or personas as they’re known in this game, before you reach your final battle to stave off a worldwide catastrophe. Think of it as a high school melodrama with a ton of addictive gameplay, lovable characters, and a dash of “Pokemon”-style collecting, and you’ve got a decent idea of what “Persona 5 Royal” has to offer.

‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ – PS4, Xbox, PC


Drop into a 150-player free-for-all with ‘Call of Duty: Warzone.’ I’ve been playing this almost every night to stay in touch with my friends, and, my god, it’s fun. (Image: Activision Blizzard)

I’ve been spending a little too much time with this title as of late. “Call of Duty: Warzone” is a free-to-play battle royale title in which you and 149 other players battle it out across a massive map using everything from pistols to rocket launchers until just one of you is left.

The game, which launched March 10, already has more than 50 million players, and with the team of developers at Infinity Ward and Raven Software continuing to tweak the experience with new game modes and additional weapons, it’s clear this title will have staying power.

Similar to games like “Fortnite” and “PlayerUknown’s Battlegrounds,” you parachute out of a plane over the enormous game map, before diving to the Earth and scrounging for anything you can use against your competitors. The twist, however, is that when you die, you’re sent to what’s called the Gulag for a one-on-one gunfight. The winner is then sent back into the game to fight on, while the loser calls it quits.

I play this game several times a week with my friends, and it offers the opportunity to socialize with them, while blowing stuff up. What more could I ask for?

‘Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ – Xbox, PC


‘Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ is a gorgeous side-scroller of a game that will challenge you, and may even bring a tear to your eye. (Image: Microsoft)

Looking for more of a traditional side-scroller? “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” might be the right option for you. Though, be warned, this title isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a challenging game that will require you to restart areas over and over again until you can master the controls and timing needed to move forward.

The sequel to the beautifully told “Ori and the Blind Forest,” “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” puts you in the role of Ori, a guardian spirit, who must find his lost friend Ku. This is the kind of game you not only play, but fall in love with thanks to its detailed level design and gorgeous visual styling. And there’s a decent shot you’ll end up tearing up a little at the end.

All you can play options

If you’re not sure whether these games are the right fit for you, you’re in luck, because both Microsoft and Sony offer all-you-can-play services that give you access to hundreds of games for a set monthly fee.

Microsoft’s (MSFTXbox Game Pass costs $9.99 per month, $4.99 to start, to play on PC; $9.99 per month to play on your Xbox One console; or $14.99 per month to access games on both PC and console, and lets you play more than 100 games as often as you want.


Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass gives you unlimited access to more than 100 games for a flat monthly fee. (Image: Microsoft)

PlayStation Now

PlayStation Now is Sony’s (SNE) answer to Game Pass and starts at $9.99 per month, $24.99 for 3 months, or $59.99 for a year, giving you access to hundreds of games that you can download to your PS4, or stream to your PC.


Sony’s PlayStation Now is another all-you-can-play option worth checking out. (Image: Sony)

Both options are an outrageous value, and well worth checking out if you’re searching for something to scratch that gaming itch while you’re stuck inside.

Happy gaming.

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We spoke with the creators of Sinfeld Chronicles to figure out what the hell is going on with this game, which is basically Silent Hill in the Seinfeld universe.


Sinfeld’s rendering of Jerry’s apartment. Somehow, from this angle, with no one inside, it’s actually really scary.

by Dom Nero via Esquire

Remember the early days of YouTube? Before all the ads and sponsored content, when you could start on a video of a dude falling off a trampoline and end up on something brilliant (and insane) like “Yummy Yummy Pizza” by Tonetta? Today, because of streaming television, there’s really no need for me to go cave diving on YouTube anymore. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss that novel joy of exploring uncharted—and strange—frontiers on the internet with friends. A few weeks ago, I got to recapture that old feeling, thanks to a game called Sinfeld Chronicles on Dreams for PS4.

Sinfeld Chronicles is a horror game set in the Seinfeld universe. You play as Donathan, an original character who claims to be Jerry Seinfeld’s nephew. He’s trapped in his uncle’s apartment building, alone—and he’s very scared. Something bad is happening in the Upper West Side. There’s a demon floating in the hallway. Kramer’s apartment has a haunted little doll inside it with a knife (Mr. Marbles!). Dead FBI agents lie in Jerry’s bathroom, and the world outside Jerry’s apartment near Monk’s diner is, well…I won’t ruin it for you.

Sinfeld was built completely on Dreams for PS4. Released in mid-February, Dreams is a video game that gives players the tools to create their own video games and then share them for anyone to play for free (if you own Dreams and an internet-connected PS4). Unlike make-your-own-game games like Rollercoaster Tycoon or Super Mario Maker, Media Molecule’s new title doesn’t do the work for you. If you want to build a house, you can’t just pick from a few templates. You have to make the walls yourself, texture them, paint them, and find a place for a door. This degree of control is unprecedented. And because you can really do anything—and everything—we’re finally seeing what video games look like when they’re made by players, not development studios.

Of course, like Sinfeld, the games on Dreams are every bit as forward-thinking and rambunctious as you’d expect. The Dreamiverse is full of mischievous little shit posts like Wario Dies in a Car Accident (legitimately funny), but I’ve found some stunning experiments like Sonic Dreams Adventure Zero, an unauthorized Sonic platformer that actually manages to get the 3D speed thing right in a way that Sega hasn’t really achieved yet.

But for my money, Sinfeld is the game to play on Dreams. I tracked down the creators of Sinfeld because, honestly, I just wanted to know why this thing exists. Turns out, the game is being developed by Austin and Colton Stock, the two brothers behind Rare Bird Interactive. They’re the outfit who made Lil’ Stevie Wanders, a bizarre animated web show that came out of the Channel 101 network (co-founded by Dan Harmon of Rick and Morty fame). “People always ask us, ‘how did you come up with this?’” Austin, the L.A.-based director and animator who voices Donathan, told me (fun fact: this guy was the video editor on Titanic 2). “We watched Seinfeld pretty much all the time. Since we’re Canadian, we’d have to drive up in an RV to Edmonton, and we would collect box sets of the DVDs, and we would watch the same episode over and over again.” He says Seinfeld is ingrained in their D.N.A.


The outside world in Sinfeld is like something out of The Shining.

But just being fans of a snarky ‘90s sitcom doesn’t really explain how a game like Sinfeld came to be. Like that Tonetta video I mentioned earlier, there’s something strikingly dark about itIn one sequence, you’re forced to perform stand up for a vacant studio audience, and if you tell the wrong jokes, you die. In another, a disembodied voice guides you through the halls from the speaker on your controller. It also implies that Kramer went on a murderous rampage in the apartment building. (As of now, there’s no real “point” to the game other than exploration, but the guys told me there’s a lot more to come.)

“We’re huge fans of Hideo Kojima,” Austin says. The game is obviously influenced by Kojima’s Silent Hill spinoff title, P.T.where players wander around haunted passageways in the first person with a flashlight. “When [Kojima] made P.T., my first thought was, ‘Oh, this would be perfect for Seinfeld.’ There’s an apartment, there’s a hallway, it’s an entire playground.” Austin says the built-in awareness—and curiosity—we have for this place makes for a perfect video game setting. He’s right. I’ve always wanted to know what the inside of Kramer’s apartment looks like. What the hell is he hiding in there? A haunted doll, apparently. I almost wish I hadn’t looked.

Colton, the other half of Rare Bird, studied game design and programming along with film at USC. Working mainly in the Unreal Engine, a pretty ubiquitous tool for game developers these days, Colton said the Dreams toolkit came easy to him. Both of the guys have backgrounds in game development, animation, and film—they’re currently working with folks at Adult Swim on a full-fledged Lil’ Stevie series. But you don’t need a degree in game design, a background in visual storytelling, or anything, really, to build stuff on Dreams. “I think that companies need to look at what Dreams is doing and see that if you make a user interface that’s easy to use and fun to use, people will gravitate around it and they’ll actually want to use it,” Colton says.


I would not recommend going into the bathroom at Monk’s diner.

When I first tried out some Dream Creation of my own, I found the process a little overwhelming—especially because it’s all done on a PS4 controller, no keyboard or mouse allowed. But Colton says, once you customize your settings a bit, things are smooth sailing. “At first I thought it’d be insane to work a program like that with a controller,” he told me. “But what’s really cool is I can go from flying around the level to clicking and typing things in without using my hands and thumbs too much. I can do a lot with the controller.” And most importantly, he says Dreams unlocks game development tools for players at less than a tenth of the normal price. “If you want to get a decent computer [for game design] that will last you the next five to 10 years, it’s about $3,000 when it’s all said and done.” Dreams isn’t even a full price video game. It’s $40.

The guys behind Sinfeld said they realized the potential for Dreams very early on. “It’s going to be a great stepping stone for people who are getting into programming or learning logic,” Austin told me. “The idea of opening a door was so daunting to me. But when I cracked open the logic it was like, ‘Oh, I get it. Player walks into trigger zone, presses square, and this happens.’ It teaches you the basic language of programming. If you start with Dreams as a kid, you could easily transition into Unreal Engine.” Apparently, the feeling of the early days of YouTube isn’t just experienced by the audience. Austin said Dreams reminds him of the “ground floor of YouTube,” those blissful few years when creators were flocking to the site to share their creativity just for the love of it. “Now,” Austin says, “we have a way for us to express our love for games.”

In the case of Rare Bird, that love manifests as the truly deranged Sinfeld Chronicles. I mean it when I say the game, which Austin and Colton told me will be periodically updated indefinitely (they’re adding combat! a story line! Ghostbusters stuff!) is already a Game of the Year contender for me. And Rare Bird is fundraising for a full-on interactive horror comedy game made on the Unreal Engine called “New York Simulator The Game: 1994 Edition.” Who knew wandering the halls of Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment could make for such a horrifying video game. And we haven’t even gotten the chance to visit Newman’s place yet.

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by Crystal Mills via Benzinga

As quarantine continues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are diving into video games in order to stay busy.

With movies, television, and sports leagues falling behind with postponed events and premieres, gaming has remained resilient.

Sports leagues such as the NBA, NHL, NASCAR, and Formula One have all transitioned into esports in order to help fill the void left by event cancellations. The number of viewers have skyrocketed, and so has the number of players.

Steam User Numbers Grow By Millions

The number of concurrent players on Steam skyrocketed in March. More than 20.3 million people were using the service. Out of these, 6.2 million were actively playing games.

Valve’s “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” was one of the titles to hit record numbers. The game hit 1 million players — the first time the game hit this record since its launch. Steam beat its own record just a week later, reaching a concurrent user number of 22.6 million.

“Steam just achieved a new peak concurrent user record of 22 million, one day after reaching 21 million and six days after reaching 20 million,” Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad said on Twitter.

“Global lockdowns and self-isolation due to COVID-19 has led to at-home gaming becoming a safe form of entertainment to pass the time.”

The numbers have continued to rise.

Xbox, PlayStation, Niantic React To Higher Traffic, Pandemic

The surge of players didn’t just affect PC services. Microsoft’s MSFT 0.01% Xbox Live suffered downtime due to an increased number of users.

“Usage is up on almost everything. Thanks go out to all the Ops/IT teams at all the companies that are working hard to keep everything running smoothly with all going on around them,” Xbox boss Phil Spencer said in a tweet.

Sony Interactive Entertainment SNE 0.79% also had to make changes due to a large influx of use on PlayStation. The company began slowing download speeds in an attempt to preserve bandwidth. New releases like “Final Fantasy VII Remake” have been unlocked for download as much as a week before their release date.

Niantic’s “Pokemon GO” has also made changes to help prioritize “features and experiences that can be enjoyed in individual settings.”

Trainers can see more Pokemon nearby to prevent the need to travel, and items like incense packs are available at a 99% discount. Incubators, which normally are powered by the number of steps a trainer takes, are now more effective.

“Trainers can hatch Eggs twice as fast,” Niantic told Polygon. With settings being revamped to encourage solo play, Niantic said it hopes to continue providing an accessible experience that promotes safety.

“While we’ve made these updates based on the current global health situation, we also encourage players to make decisions on where to go and what to do that are in the best interest of their health and the health of their communities.”

Gaming To Flatten The Curve

More companies are promoting gaming in order to encourage people to stay home. Amazon’s AMZN 0.01% Twitch livestreaming service and Activision Blizzard ATVI 1% are joining forces in a campaign called #PlayApartTogether.

“It’s never been more critical to ensure people stay safely connected to one another. Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose and meaning. We are proud to participate in such a worthwhile and necessary initiative,” Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in a press release.

Even the World Health Organization, which classifies game addiction as a disease, is promoting gaming as a safe form of entertainment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ray Chambers, the WHO ambassador for global strategy, said he hopes the gaming industry can “reach millions with important messages to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The need for at-home entertainment has attracted a surge of new gamers and players who haven’t touched a controller in years.

Consoles like the Nintendo (OTCPK: NTDOY) Switch have been selling out at major retailers like Best Buy BBY 2.37%, GameStop GME 14.39% and Walmart WMT 0.04%.

Third-party prices have skyrocketed on sites like eBay Inc EBAY 2.48% and Amazon. For those who were lucky enough to buy one, the Switch has been a vital resource during quarantine.

Anna Thomason, a Tennessee resident, is a self-titled casual gamer who lost the time to dive into gaming due to her college and work schedule.

Since the pandemic began, Thomason said she has been using video games to stay connected with friends.

“Most of my life I’ve played on a PC or handheld. I don’t have the patience to build a good PC rig and I’m not about to buy one. Plus my friends have [Nintendo Switches], so I bought the Switch Lite to get back into gaming and hang out with my friends since it’s not safe to see them right now.”

Coronavirus may have crippled traditional avenues of entertainment, but video games appear to be immune.

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by Ben Gilbert via Business Insider

While the coronavirus outbreak caused all “non-essential” businesses and services to pause indefinitely, GameStop, the world’s biggest video game retailer, kept its stores operating far longer than most and even argued its business operations were “essential” because they “enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home.”

The company only walked back standard operations on March 22, and introduced a “delivery at door” service where customers can order products online for pickup at the door.

Employees still working during the ongoing pandemic say that proper safety measures aren’t being taken to ensure they don’t get sick. According to a memo sent to GameStop managers and reported by the Boston Globe, employees were reportedly told to cover their hands am arms with plastic bags when interacting with customers.

“Lightly (you want to be able to get it off easily) tape a Game Stop plastic bag over your hand and arm,” the memo read. “Do not open the door all the way — keep the glass between you and the guest’s face — just reach out your arm.”

COVID-19 is spread primarily through respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond disinfecting surfaces and washing your hands, the number one way to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus is through so-called “social distancing” — staying away from other people so you can’t breathe in their potentially infected droplets.


A GameStop manager who spoke with the Boston Globe highlighted the discrepancy between those guidelines and what he’s being asked to do by his employer.

“I have to make a choice between doing a job that nobody needs during a pandemic and not being paid, and possibly infecting people or being infected,” he said.

Across the last year, the company’s stock value dropped by two-thirds — from about $15 in January 2019 to under $5 by January 2020 — and it reshuffled its C-suite.

Like Blockbuster Video and Tower Records before it, GameStop faces major challenges to its business model from the internet. As more people buy video games through digital storefronts, fewer buy games on physical discs from GameStop, leaving the company struggling to modernize its business.

GameStop representative Joey Mooring offered the following statement in response to our request for comment:

“With employee and customer safety as our paramount concern, we’ve closed all our stores to customer access. Where provided for by state and local directives, we are only processing orders on a digital basis through our new curbside Delivery@Door pick-up service. Only employees may enter our stores at this time. Importantly, all GameStop employees have been assured that they do not have to work if they are not comfortable, or need to stay home to care for a family member. While GameStop is best known as a provider of gaming and home entertainment systems, we also offer a wide array of products and devices that are important to facilitate remote work, distance learning, and virtual connectivity.”

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The measure should improve network stability as more isolated gamers go online.


by Marc DeAngelis via Engadget

Earlier this week, both Sony and Microsoft announced that they would follow the lead of many streaming companies and limit the bandwidth of their gaming services in Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic. Today, Sony updated PlayStation fans, saying that it will take similar measures in the US. By capping download speeds, the company hopes to maintain network stability as more and more people resort to gaming to pass the time while social distancing. Sony says gamers should expect slower game downloads, but assures them that they will experience the same robust gameplay as normal. In other words, it sounds like Sony isn’t planning on throttling traffic for online games — just file downloads.

With the majority of people working from home and so many people killing time streaming music, movies and games, networks are hit with intense amounts of traffic. Hopefully these measures will help preserve network stability so people can continue enjoying them. Microsoft hasn’t announced any updates regarding Xbox’s network services in the US. That said, PlayStation gamers hoping to play Doom Eternal this weekend may want to start their download sooner rather than later, and Xbox gamers might want to download the game while Xbox Live is still operating at full speed.


by Matthew Gault via Time

As many people around the world limit their time outdoors for fear of the coronavirus, one might think it’s a boon time for the video game industry, which can provide a form of entertainment that isolated people so desperately need.

But in reality, the outbreak could not have come at a worse time for the gaming business. Concerns over the virus, which can cause potentially deadly health complications, have led organizers to postpone a major industry event where designers often make big publication deals, potentially killing the next Fortnite in the cradle. Furthermore, it threatens to wreak havoc with the industry’s supply chain just as Sony and Microsoft, two of the industry’s biggest competitors, are gearing up to release their next big consoles later this year.

News that the Game Developers Conference, or GDC, was being rescheduled came down late Friday. “After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March,” reads a statement from the show’s organizers. “Having spent the past year preparing for the show with our advisory boards, speakers, exhibitors, and event partners, we’re genuinely upset and disappointed not to be able to host you at this time.”

While GDC isn’t as much of a public festival as, say, E3, it’s a hugely important event for those in the industry. Big-name games publishers will be largely unaffected by the show’s postponement, but it could be a massive blow to small indie developers. Many indie designers spend considerable amounts of energy and treasure banking on GDC as a means of striking a publishing deal or getting publicity. GDC’s organizers are refunding the cost of entry, but it may be harder for indie developers to claw back their airfare, hotel fees and other related expenses.

“For a lot of [independent developers], this is the one event they go to,” says Rami Ismail, co-founder of Dutch indie games studio Vlambeer. “This is quite a blow … this might be career ending.”


It’s a blow to gamers, too: Ismail says the show’s postponement might mean some indie games that might have been the next big thing may never see the light of day. “If you’re an independent CEO who’s been working on a game for a year and a half, had money for a year, but pushed through on no money at all for a few months to get a build ready for GDC so that you can pitch a publisher … now all those games may be dead,” he says.

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Still, some in the gaming business say postponing GDC was the right move. “It’s a good thing that companies prioritized keeping their employees safe even if some might consider the fears overblown,” says a senior employee at a major gaming studio who spoke with TIME on condition of anonymity for fear of alienating others in the industry. “I’m glad that GDC finally decided to defer the event, although it’s obviously still tough for anyone traveling there on their own dime, especially considering how expensive a badge is to begin with.”

And while the coronavirus is indeed causing a spike in short-term demand for video games and consoles, it could prove challenging for the industry to keep up. Nearly 90% of video game consoles in the U.S. were made in China — the heart of the coronavirus outbreak — according to Daniel Ahmad, a senior industry analyst at Niko Partners. As employees there are being kept away from work to avoid spreading the virus, it’s resulting in production shortfalls across all sorts of sectors, gaming included. Nintendo says it can’t make enough Switch consoles to meet demand, Facebook is having similar problems with its Oculus Quest VR headset, and Sony is preparing for a dip in PlayStation 4 production. Other technology firms outside gaming, like Apple and Huawei, are also struggling with supply chain issues amid the coronavirus outbreak; Apple supplier Foxconn has even begun making surgical masks.

Ahmad says that the gaming industry should be fine if the coronavirus outbreak can be “contained within the next month or two.” But Panos Kouvelis, a supply chain expert at Washington University in St. Louis, thinks the industry should prepare for the worst — especially as Sony and Microsoft are working to release their PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles, respectively. “Right now, the factories in China are trying to start ramping up, but they’ll be constrained by labor … so the ramping up is going to be rather slow.”

Kouvelis says that many of the factories making semiconductors, a key component of video game consoles, are highly automated, giving manufacturers confidence that they can avoid coronavirus-related shortfalls. But he also cautions that the virus could complicate Sony and Microsoft’s release schedule, though neither have yet indicated they expect any delays. “When you have these new product development cycles, there are things that aren’t that easy to substitute,” he says. “The impact on the industry will be significant.”

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