Sales Are up for Now, but the Pandemic Is Still Hurting Games

Sales Are up for Now, but the Pandemic Is Still Hurting Games

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Console sales and engagement numbers have been up, but nobody's happy about COVID-19.

How's everyone enjoying their extended self-isolation?

If it's any consolation, I don't think anybody is enjoying this. And even though there are plenty of stories about spikes in game sales and engagement and concurrent Steam users right now, don't believe that the games industry is in any way happy about it, either.

Gaming certainly appears better positioned to endure the pandemic than a ton of other industries, but this is a giant wrench in everyone's plans and I think I speak for everyone in this industry when I say we'd gladly trade those extra sales and engagement figures for a few more months of dismal NPD numbers like January and February if it meant people weren't dying and we could go out for a burrito again.

I really miss burritos.

Apologies in advance, but most of this column is pandemic-related again. I suspect a lot of the columns in the near-future will be as well. And I can't really help it if that's what the big news of the week is. What I can do is bury it as far down the column as possible and instead start you off with a momentary respite, something to make you feel like everything's back to normal.

So let's drag Activision for a moment, shall we?

QUOTE | "Sony Interactive Entertainment has decided not to sell Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered on the PlayStation Store in Russia." - An Activision representative confirms that the platform holder has refused to carry the game, which includes a level where players accompany a crew of Russian operatives in a mass shooting of civilians in an airport.

QUOTE | "Sony Interactive Entertainment has decided not to sell Modern Warfare on the PlayStation Store in Russia at this time." - A Sony representative confirmed last year that the platform holder had refused to carry that game, which includes a reference to the "Highway of Death"—an actual Gulf War atrocity committed by American forces—but attributes it to Russians.

QUOTE | "It's kind of wild how when I first played this game a decade ago I never realized just how blatant the game is about 'U.S. lives worthwhile, U.K. lives also OK I guess, other lives meh what's needed is needed you know.'" - Vlambeer developer Rami Ismail tweets about Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered and how playing it again has underscored the game's grotesque assessment of what human lives deserve rights, protection, and mourning, and which ones don't.

QUOTE | "In the near future, we'll have games that don't depend on any platform. Gamers should be able to take the experience with them in their living rooms, on the go, when they travel—wherever they are and whenever they want to play. It should be the same software and the same experience." - Hideo Kojima talking about on-demand streaming 10 years ago this month and sounding like a modern day Xbox or Stadia executive.

QUOTE | "When we first started, we had a very long meeting about the characters because people are going to want to cosplay them at some point, so we have to be very careful." - Achimostawinan Games co-founder Meagan Byrne talks about making Hill Agency, a cybernoir detective game for an Indigenous audience, but with the understanding that non-Indigenous people will engage with it as well.

STAT | 155% - The jump in console hardware sales across Europe for the week of March 16-22, when many countries were in lockdowns because of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. March hardware sales have been so high they have all but erased double-digit declines in the hardware market over the first two months of the year.

QUOTE | "I know that significant delays in regional launches hurt us. It hurts us with the sentiment of the fans. Every time I go to Japan I'm reminded that we were nine months late launching there with Xbox One." - Xbox head Phil Spencer says he would be hesitant to abandon a simultaneous worldwide release of the Xbox Series X even in light of the pandemic.

Some players in Europe and Australia already have their hands on Final Fantasy 7 Remake. | Square Enix

QUOTE | "These unique circumstances have made it very difficult to align timing of our global shipping. Our highest priority is that all of you, including those who live in countries currently facing the biggest disruption, can play the game at launch, so we made the decision to ship the game far earlier than usual to Europe and Australia." - Square Enix switches up its plans for Final Fantasy 7 Remake's worldwide release.

QUOTE | "Even with us finishing the game, we were faced with the reality that due to logistics beyond our control, we couldn't launch The Last of Us Part 2 to our satisfaction." - Sony announces The Last of Us Part 2 is being delayed indefinitely because the pandemic would prevent getting copies out to everywhere they are supposed to go at the same time.

QUOTE | "That means that every game in development on the planet is now a month behind. So we're excited to find partners that need a little extra muscle to get their games over the finish line." - Demiurge Studios co-founder Albert Reed, who just bought the Marvel Puzzle Quest developer back from parent company Sega, says the company is looking to get back to its roots as a support studio helping out on triple-A blockbusters.

QUOTE | "I can't do anything to address your concerns if I don't know who I'm talking with. I can tell whoever you are that I spend lots of time in my stores. Even though I have Parkinson's disease and asthma. Plus I'm 56-years-old. So don't lecture me on risk. I'm here if you want to be an adult and talk to me." - Game X Change owner Grant Wetherill offers a decidedly childish response to an anonymous letter from one of his employees asking the game retailer to do more to protect employees and customers. The chain reportedly failed to provide staff with adequate cleaning supplies and instead distributed a list of health recommendations including a number of debunked myths on how to protect oneself from COVID-19.

QUOTE | "Game X Change is headquartered in Northwest Arkansas." - According to the official Game X Change website FAQ, this is the answer to the question "Who owns Game X Change?"

QUOTE |"When I'm working in an office, I only have to attend one meeting at a time. When I'm at home, there have been circumstances where I've had to attend three meetings simultaneously." - 24 Entertainment producer Ray Kuan talks about the difficulties of working from home in a feature with Chinese developers returning to work after a COVID-19 lockdown.

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Brendan Sinclair

North American Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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