While the global pandemic has devastated many industries, online gaming and gambling have been absolutely booming.
With hundreds of millions of people essentially locked in their homes, particularly in the wealthier developed countries, there has been a significant amount of time and money spent on online gaming.
On top of stay-at-home orders from governments, there has also been record numbers of people laid off from work, with many temporarily receiving generous state subsidies depending on the country. And with no “new” jobs to go hunting for, much of the world has been on an extended summer vacation for adults, except in this case they can’t go outside to play. So they’re playing indoors.
The extra time available has been filled by many new digital forms of entertainment such as streaming TV services Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ (which fortuitously launched just in time to babysit millions of bored children). Netflix particularly has exploded, adding 16 million new subscribers in Q1 and doubling their profits–taking the company’s market value above that of perennial entertainment juggernaut Disney, an exceptional feat.
Time and money spent on online gaming skyrockets
Rivaling passive binge-watching TV series is online gaming–and this surge is also being seen across all age groups and both sexes. The major video game publishers, like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft have seen huge increases in sales and activity in March and April and this will only continue in the weeks and months to come. Microsoft reported a 130% increase in multiplayer game activity and Nintendo has been selling out of the Switch console and their latest release “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” has broken several sales records en route to becoming the top selling game ever for the Switch, in only six weeks. Fortnite, and many other online games have also hit new user records.
Gambling, in its many forms, has also jumped significantly since the lock-downs began. Online sales of instant lottery games such as virtual scratch games and traditional lottery tickets (now available online) has increased. Governments run these lottery entities and are the recipients of the increased revenues, coincidentally at a time when they are also spending wildly to support the economic collapse their lock-downs have caused.
Other gambling channels are also seeing increased activity, both from long-time participants as well as a steady influx of new players. Online slot games, and numerous virtual Vegas-style tables games, such as IDN poker, roulette, and blackjack have been seeing strong activity. Several new companies and sites have been rushing to enter the market to meet the rising demand for such games.
The one area that is getting crushed in the current climate is sport betting, a huge global business that is hurting for the obvious reason that there are literally no sports to bet on. It will be interesting to see how the industry rebounds when sport leagues start up again, or if millions of former customers have gone and found new pastimes. Also, will the proposed matches in empty stadiums drive the same enthusiasm for the sports and teams as before? Probably not.
How long will this last?
What does the future hold? This is the big question, and the answers will likely take different forms in different countries. It’s possible, in the developed countries as least, that a major paradigm shift is happening where employers and employees realize working remotely, i.e. telecommuting, is actually an acceptable, even preferred, and cost-efficient way of running, at least some parts of their businesses. And a lifestyle bonus for work-from-home employees.
And a bit more pessimistically, the massive overreaction by government to the pandemic may have damaged economies for months and years to come, and millions will continue to be underemployed, spending much of their time at home, continuing to binge away on Netflix series and spend countless hours gaming online.