March 3-2020
Coronavirus outbreak : Impacts in the gaming industry

The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted life worldwide with 88 948 confirmed (1804 new) cases as per WHO 2 March situation report.  As the tech industry, including gaming, rely on China for production and materials, a ripple effect in the industry is being observed. Here are some of the ways how coronavirus has affected the gaming industry.

 Events cancelled/postponed
The coronavirus outbreak has become a worldwide phenomenon and because of which events are being cancelled and postponed around the globe to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. The first major cancellation was Mobile World Congress, which had expected to draw 100,000 people to Barcelona.  The cancellation of events continued with Intel’s Intel Labs Day then Facebook’s annual Global Marketing Summit in San Francisco and more. The remarkable one which has tremor the gaming Industry was the postponement of The Game Developers Conference (GDC), San Francisco.

The event, which has run since 1988, was expected to take place from 16 March to 20 March but the outbreak has made it organisers to postpone the event. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, there have been high-profile withdrawals by companies that had planned to attend GDC 2020. The postponement of the event happens when companies like Sony, Microsoft, Epic Games, Unity, Activision Blizzard, Amazon, and Facebook, including Oculus, all cancelled their plans to attend the show, citing health concerns related to the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

The official post reads, “We want to thank all our customers and partners for their support, open discussions and encouragement. As everyone has been reminding us, great things happen when the community comes together and connects at GDC. For this reason, we fully intend to host a GDC event later in the summer. We will be working with our partners to finalize the details and will share more information about our plans in the coming weeks.”

New gaming trend
 Online games and short video apps have been among the few beneficiaries of China’s virus outbreak, raking in millions of views and download as people stuck in self-quarantine at home seek entertainment and ways to beguile their time. As of February investors have seized on the trend, with shares of Chinese game publishers, such as Tencent, rising two per cent in Hong Kong on Tuesday, outstripping a rise of one per cent in the benchmark, while in New York, NetEase rose nearly 3 per cent.  In addition to that strategy simulation app Plague Inc., which jumped to the top of the charts in Apple’s app store, retained its popularity followed by Rebel Inc. topped China’s iOS download chart recently because of the outbreak, doomsday games have topped the charts.

The game, which allows users to create and evolve a pathogen to destroy the world, generated 78,000 downloads in January, up from 16,000 in December, according to Sensor Tower. Chinese citizens are avoiding coronavirus by playing doomsday games at home.

However, the pandemic simulation game Plague Inc. has been taken down from Apple’s App Store in China — after finding renewed popularity due to the coronavirus outbreak. Sales of Plague Inc. recently surged, particularly in China, eight years after its release, amid concerns over the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19. The app reportedly topped the charts for premium iOS games in China and also climbed up in the rankings in other countries such as the U.S. and U.K.

Gaming tech companies temporarily closing operations
The tech sector is currently feeling the impact of the coronavirus, with companies closing offices, stores, and factories in China as well as restricting employees from nonessential travels to the country. Earlier this month, major tech companies announced they would temporarily shut down all corporate offices, manufacturing factories, and retail stores across China. These companies include Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Tesla, and Google. (Google has also closed offices in nearby Hong Kong and Taiwan.) As many products are manufactured in China (or use parts from Chinese vendors), experts are also warning customers to expect shortages for various smartphones, VR headsets, cars, and other tech accessories.

Apple has closed down the production of iPhone and AirPods, Facebook has also stopped taking new orders for its latest Oculus Quest VR headset, citing the outbreak for the delay.

Production on the Nintendo Switch for the entire Japanese market is in flux, leading to shortages of Switch consoles, accessories, and games. Pre-orders for the new Animal Crossing: New Horizons Switch model now have no release date in Japan. Orders of Ring Fit Adventure, which is out of stock in the country, won’t be filled anytime soon either. Nintendo said other accessories like Joy-Cons are also affected. According to Digital Trends, the company does not expect delays in other regions, including North America and Europe. Nintendo makes its hardware for Japanese gamers in China, where the coronavirus has killed hundreds and continues to spread.

The Quest had been on backorder since around the holiday season; retailers had initially said the headset would be available again in early February, but the date has been pushed back to as late as 10 March 10th for the 64GB version.

For fans of the niche gaming ROG Phone II, Asus has also warned customers that the device won’t be available again until further notice due to the coronavirus. Other Chinese brands that expect to see production delays include Oppo, Xiaomi, Lenovo, and Huawei.

Delay in Game launches
 China is key to the game industry’s supply chain with a third to a half of art creation for Western game developers done in the country, according to Jefferies estimates published in a research note on Feb 4. With the coronavirus deadly widespread the central government forced to extend the Lunar New Year holiday and impose factory and business shutdowns resulted in the delay of game launches.

Switch players must now wait for a version of the game The Outer Worlds. After announcing the 2019 title would come to the Nintendo Switch just last month, Private Division said on Twitter that the game is delayed. Virtuous, the Singapore-based studio working on the port has experienced no health issues, the publisher assured, but its office remains closed.

The upcoming game Eve Echoes, stipulated that the COVID-19 epidemic has “hindered the developer’s schedule,” said official twitter post and while an official release date has yet to be decided, the game is expected to be launched at the end of 2020.

Blockbuster games that were initially slated to come out in March were Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Watch Dogs Legion are both delayed. Also, Doom Eternal which was another game that was delayed but is finally coming out on the 20 March. Also games like Ori and the will of the wisps, Ring Fit Adventure, Animal Crossing: New Horizon, Half life Alyx, Persona 5 Royal and so on.

Esports tournaments cancelled/postponed
 Multiple esports events of several different games are currently being affected by Coronavirus, they are either been postponed or have been cancelled.The Overwatch League has officially cancelled all matches in February and March scheduled to take place in China, due to the coronavirus outbreak. In a statement on Twitter, the Overwatch League said the decision was made “to protect the health and safety of our players, fans, and staff.”

Some organisations have begun to cancel events, these include the League of Legends Pacific Championship Series opening, which was set to begin on 8 February and has now been indefinitely postponed. A Pokemon Video Game Championships event in Hong Kong scheduled for February 2 has been cancelled entirely. The WESG Asia-Pacific Finals for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, set to take place in Macau, have also been cancelled Followed by PUBG League, CrossFire, CrossFire Mobile, and so on. Also recently AESF announced the postponement of the inaugural Asian Esports Federation (AESF) e-Masters Chengdu 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus two Indian teams who aimed to travel for the quarter-final is waiting for the new dates of the tournament.

The Indian division of AESF Esports Federation of India (ESFI) director Lokesh Suji said, “For us, the well being and safety of our esports athletes is the top priority. Though the teams were very excited and energized to represent India at e-Masters, this situation was an unfortunate event. All our thoughts and well wishes are with the people who have been affected by the virus and pray for their speedy recovery.  The event has just been postponed, it will eventually happen. On the bright side players now will have more time to practice”

Temporary relocation of esports players
 The Chinese teams for the Overwatch league-Guangzhou Charge and the Shanghai Dragons — have announced a temporary relocation to South Korea due to epidemic spread.

Only time can unfold what will be next. Till then stay safe!