COVID-19 pandemic boosts online gaming


The past year has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging for many of us. With the pandemic forcing everyone to self-isolate—and in some cases, away from family and friends—it is no surprise that people have turned to online games to cure the growing boredom.

Before the disruption caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, the online gaming industry has been growing steadily but it has now skyrocketed as more and more people are searching for ways to stay entertained. With remote work now the order of the day and many academic institutions transitioning to virtual learning, people now have more time to engage in leisure activities.

According to a study by Deloitte, about one-third of consumers have subscribed for a video gaming service—whether cloud gaming, virtual sporting event or e-sports tournament—for the very first time during the pandemic. At a time where many other industries are recording all-time lows in revenue, sales in the gaming industry is booming with global revenue expected to reach $175 billion by the end of the year, rising by over 20%.

In addition to how entertaining it is, the accessibility of online gaming platforms like has made lots of passive players become quite dedicated to it—taking full advantage of the convenience these platforms offer and the extra time spent in isolation. Now, even the most casual gamer finds refuge in playing online games to escape the monotonous feeling of the pandemic and share more virtual experiences with others.

While the concept of socializing virtually through online games might be new to many, it is a concept that has been in existence for years—allowing online gamers to build strong friendships and stay connected.  Numerous gaming platforms allow millions of gamers to play with and against each other, especially now that most games support multiplayer modes.

The gaming industry now has a community of dedicated gamers who have built a connection amongst themselves outside of regular gameplay, particularly with teammates on multiplayer or co-ed games. This way, gamers can make the most out of every gameplay they’re engaged in and can spend several hours staring at their computer screens or smartphones without the slightest feeling of loneliness.

“Gamers socialise with others online and create a sense of community and wellbeing. Most gamers value the socialisation aspects very highly. They are among the main motivations for playing, particularly when it comes to engaging in massively multiplayer online games,” said Mark Griffiths, Director of the International Gaming Research Unit and Professor at Nottingham Trent University in a research.

These games typically have hundreds of thousands of players who interact and play on the same server—and generation Z gamers in particular have mastered the art of building relationships with other gamers, even through social media. The online gaming industry is no longer just a collection of strangers pitted against themselves online, but now groups of people who have formed genuine, formidable friendships that could last a lifetime.

Apart from the growing number of online gamers, the number of streamers has also been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. An essential part of today’s online gaming culture is streaming, and the lockdown measures meant people could spend more time streaming games, watching, and even commenting on other people’s gameplay.

In the second quarter of 2020 alone, Twitch, an Amazon-owned platform where people can watch others play video games in live webcasts or chat in real-time with streamers and other viewers, recorded about five billion hours of viewed content. The rise in user engagement was a whopping 83% increase from last year, setting a new record for the company.

In fact, just like Twitch, YouTube also created a dedicated streaming platform for online gamers and their fans where content creators can invite their fans to play games together while streaming them in real-time. This move has helped create a strong connection within the gaming community, especially at this time when people are struggling to cope with the lonely feeling of not being able to connect with their friends physically.

Another trend witnessed during the pandemic was the rise in female gamers globally. It has been a long-held belief that gaming itself was predominately for males, while females preferred other leisure activities like tending to Barbies. However, this is changing as many female gamers are rising and excelling in the online gaming industry. Now, nearly half of all gamers are women, with females making up 46% of gamers.

Gaming is often a victim of bad publicity by the media due to the unnecessary focus on the minority of gamers who play to the extent that they develop a gaming disorder—similar to that of gambling. Nonetheless, game studios and publishers, alongside video streaming platforms, are capitalizing on the sudden rise in interest to make their services more personalized and engaging, particularly for newly converted online gamers who are still experimenting with their new interest.