Covid-19 and its Influence on Gaming
The gaming world has been shaken quite radically in response to Covid-19's outbreak, a result of the many measures governments and corporations have taken in order to prevent its spread and harm those most vulnerable. The first major issue (not counting the fact game developers need toilet paper too) was the titanic E3 ever hastening toward its demise in that it was cancelled, putting not only its own life at risk, but spelling trouble for the upcoming generation of consoles and the journalists covering them. Following this was the Game Developer Conference (GDC) being delayed until Summer (August, thereabouts), and other smaller venues being shut down to ensure the safety of employees and attendees. This has raised the question of whether or not major publishers and console manufacturers need the hype that comes with a live show giving away free tickets to fill seats, and how developers can learn trade secrets from veterans or pitch ideas to interested parties. Perhaps fans of Stadia and its similarly poorly prepared ilk are right: digital and streaming are the future. Who would've imagined a virus of all things changing the way we receive our content, besides the increasing number of apathetic users who are introduced to this way of interacting with content?
Despite increasing calls to work from home or closing all essential business from the governments of the world, video game stores remained open until collectively closing March 24th. GameStop and UK equivilent GAME were still welcoming people trade-in their games and germs, practically making the children who will go there (now schools are closed) carriers if they weren't already. GAME were tasteless in encouraging self-isolation while not telling their employees to follow suit, and GameStop's treatment of employees is, err, no different to how it was before. Thank goodness they gave gamers the chance to get Doom Eternal earlier so they didn't infect the Animal Crossing fans before eventually closing for the time being.
The systemic abuse of game developers has remained behind closed doors for years and the novel Corona virus' effects on crunch culture are currently unknown to outsiders. Given that devs are sometimes worked to illegal hours and suffer perverse work cultures with zero power (or energy) to combat it legally, Covid-19 could easily make matters worse. Peer pressure is a huge thing in the industry when it comes to contract renewal time: nobody wants to be the one to go home and dump the work on others because they've not seen their family in 14 days. Adding to this is the stress of infecting friends and loved ones outside of the office space, if not those who are immuno-compromised working already. If they're not laid off as a result of the virus, a very real possibility.
The best case scenario is that we see the delays to game development Jason Schrier tweeted about. I'd like to consider myself an open minded individual but I won't be moved on the stance that developers shouldn't die for any game, which Covid-19 may well be the cause of if studios and their publishers aren't careful. Not that this particular industry has had a recent track record of benevolance, even to its own. I'd find it very worrying if games that aren't yet greenlit are releasing on their intended date, unless this virus vanishes immediately.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
It isn't all bad though: Xbox and Nintendo's unjustifiably subscription-based online functionalities are struggling to handle the amount of players using their servers because of self-isolation; meanwhile Steam has hit its peak player count of 22million concurrent players. There's sales galore mostly capitalising on Corona virus and people self-isolating, but I must commend Good Old Games (GOG) for their giveaway of 27 games to keep players busy and mostly without the hassle of latency from other players in multiplayer, or huge download sizes.
Rather than fix its horrendous levelling experience, World of Warcraft developer Blizzard Entertainment is offering a 100 per cent increase to experience point gain, which only applies to the fairly decent levelling of expansion Battle for Azeroth. Chances are anyone who's alts are lagging behind is not because the game wasn't fast enough. Around this time, Halo: Master Chief Collection (MCC), Star Wars: Battlefront II and Call of Duty: Warzone were all encouraging users to hop into their games. That sure is a lot of external hard-drives publishers expect people to go through.
Plus, Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) and Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) are making their downloadable content free to access until April 30th. They don't have anything on the fan-revived MMO Return of Reckoning but I have to commend them on their efforts regardless.
I wish I could say one final thing that's optimistic to conclude, but the corona virus is real and real scary. Not helping matters is sensationalist headlines via print media (which, through low quality ink and paper, will spread more than panic), and the consistently poor defence the world has for dealing with pandemics. Covid-19 saw, it came and it conquered, and it'll go away soon enough (or at least, rather than later.)
In the meantime, let me share something gamers are doing for the good of humanity: putting old PC hardware to use in order to help find a cure for the Corona Virus. Like cryptocurrency mining, players are allowing their computers to solve algorithms and corner the corona virus for the boys in the lab pyjamas. This could well be a collossal change for the world of medicine, and might drastically affect the speed of public health research for years to come.
Stay safe, stay indoors, and clear out your backlog like you're clearing out toilet paper.