It's not surprising that the lockdown orders that came with the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the amount of time people have spent playing video games. But thanks to a report from Unity, we now know just how much the video game business has spiked in the last few months (for some developers).
Unity's report, which pulls data both from Unity's engine analytics and the company's monetization platform, uses a number of data points to highlight just how drastically global video game playing has increased. For instance, the company has noted a 46 percent increase in daily active users on PC and consoles, and a 17 percent increase on mobile devices.
That spike in users actually stands in contrast to a normal "dip" in video game activity that occurs in the spring, when the weather gets nicer, and there's more reason to be outdoors. Mobile games don't normally see this dip but apparently the number of mobile game installs has increased by an astonishing 84 percent.
Mobile in-app-purchase revenue has also apparently shot up 24 percent, a spike in spending that's normally seen in the December holiday season.
None of these numbers eliminate the challenges video game developers have reported in making games under lockdown, nor do they necessarily insulate the game industry from the impact of a pandemic-driven recession. But they certainly are strong numbers for a business that's become a key part of people's lives during the spread of COVID-19.
There is of course, a grim balance in what these numbers represent. While increased indoor time is a boon for the video game business, lockdown measures are occuring in part due the failures of many countries, including the United States, to implement strong public health measures that might have stopped the spread of COVID-19.
For instance, a May study by Columbia University suggested that had the United States implemented lockdown orders a week earlier, 54,000 fewer people might have died from COVID-19.
Additionally, those 54,000 deaths cut deeply into communites of color in the United States. The pain and loss in those communities was only exacerbated by the public killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more.
Many developers have stepped up to announce financial commitments to Black Lives Matter organizations in the wake of these killings, but the industry may need to reckon with how its success in 2020 is tied deeply into the loss of life that the virus brings. While the industry is able to safely work from home, its players are not entirely free from risk.