Production of new video and online slots real money digital games has slowed but sales of the games, and visits to the online casino, are spiking as gaming enthusiasts worldwide hunker down to wait out the coronavirus self-isolation. Industry analysts are optimistic that those in the business can weather the storm since video games fit the new reality perfectly.
Around the world, governments and health officials are asking people to shelter at home in order to keep new infections down and give the health care system time to combat the pandemic. Many people have been turning to gaming to relieve the long stretches of boredom and loneliness.
Sloto Cash online casino reports an upsurge in gaming activity. Twitch, a streaming platform, drew more than three billion hours of first-time viewership while Doom Eternal, a new shooter game that was released in March, sold more games than any other game in the series on its first weekend on the shelves. A number of other games have also broken sales records and video game streaming sites, online casinos and esports competitions have also been drawing more viewers
Mat Piscatella, an analyst at the N.P.D. Group where sales of digital games are tracked, explained what the industry is seeing. “Gaming is one of those areas that people are diverting to from other activities that they would have done in a normal world. The game sales that are coming out are breaking franchise records.”
Gaming developers are struggling to keep up. While employees could technically work at home, work-at-home has not proven to offer maximum productivity in the industry. Parents must care for young children at home and technical and coordination issues often need to be solved on-site.
Amazon’s New World and Microsoft’s Wasteland 3 were expected to be launched in May but are now not expected to come out until August while Sony announced that, with factories and distribution pipelines disrupted, the release of the long-awaited The Last of Us: Part II will be delayed because the company won’t be able to print, ship and sell the game as intended.
The news isn’t all bad. Ubisoft has announced that it will move some of its employees from one project to another. Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft’s chief executive, described the company’s strategy. “We shifted some of our quality assurance and testing work from India to China while our studio in Pune was transitioning to working from home. We also learned a lot from our studios in China, who had to deal with this first and shared their best practices and experiences with us.”
Some companies, such as RealTime Gaming, find that this is the time to try new avenues. RTG has developed a partnership with platform developer SoftGamings. Through the partnership RTG games will become available through the API system that SoftGamings offers.
RTG has over 300 games on the multi-channel delivery systems including video poker, table and card games and video slots. New titles are added regularly to RTG’s games lobby and the new partnership will make it even more competitive in this new era.
The gaming industry is one that relies heavily on industry events and delayed or cancelled events are causing more challenges. The annual March Game Developers Conference was cancelled while the cancellation of video game convention E3 has big game publishers scrambling to figure out an alternative way to announce and showcase new titles.
Many developers relied on such events to find financing for their projects or strike marketing deals. Rival Games, a Finland-based studio, is closing the company because, a Rival Games spokesperson said, coronavirus “shut down all the leads that we had and left us lost in the dark with no way out.”
Developers are also worried about how lower disposable income is going to affect their activities. Some companies have decided to delay the physical release of new games and only release them on a digital platform for now.
Video game developers must also face logistical issues involved in getting certified. Certification ensures that there are no game glitches and the certification stamp is required in order to release a game on Xbox, Switch or PlayStation by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
Since testers are working from home, questions have been raised about security. Backlogs are expected as well – the normal certification process takes 4-6 weeks but now the window looks more like 8-10 weeks.
For makes of new consoles, the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is disastrous. Microsoft and Sony were due to release new Xbox and PlayStation consoles this year – events that occur once every 7 or 8 years.
Companies like Ubisoft and EA had been planning releases of new video games alongside the launches of the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. Even though the companies say that everything is on track, observers are skeptical.
N.P.D.’s Mat Piscatella said “If the consoles get delayed, that’s going to have an impact on what we’re seeing in the market, no question.” Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot said that Microsoft and Sony are allowing Ubisoft developers to hold on to their computer hardware dev kits so that they can continue with the game development.
But, Guillemont said, no one is betting on timely releases for the consoles. “We are not seeing significant impact to our own timelines, but we are in touch with all our partners and if there’s a need to adjust in order to do what’s best for them and for our players, we will do so.”
Some developers are cutting the scope of their games, as opposed to delaying the games’ release. By cutting features, quests and levels they hope to meet their deadlines.
Voice acting is another area that has seen complications. John Ricciardi, a co-founder of Tokyo-based localization company 8-4 Ltd. which translates scripts said, “We had one project in the middle of recording. And two or three lined up to be starting soon. The one that’s in the middle is just on pause. The other ones are delayed." Voice actors can technically record from home but the sound isn’t optimal and it’s hard to integrate that recording to previous dialogue that was recorded elsewhere.
At the end of the day, companies say that development is, in fact, proceeding, though at a slower pace. But in the marketplace, sales are increasing and the demand for gaming entertainment is as high as ever.
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