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Unity: One in five U.S. players dove into multiplayer games during the pandemic

It turns out social distancing is a good incentive to get into multiplayer games.

Bryant Francis

October 21, 2021

2 Min Read
A man sits on a couch holding two Xbox controllers.
Image by Humphrey Muleba via Unsplash

New data from Unity indicates that among American video game players who use multiplayer, 16 percent of them jumped into online play because of the pandemic. 

That's an interesting statistic because it helps provide some sense of how the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 shaped player behavior during an age of social distancing and lockdowns. Unity described the number as a "big jump" from prior years, and though it's possible not every player started for pandemic-related reasons, some in their numbers definitely did.

For context, Unity found that slightly over half of American game players described themselves as "multiplayer gamers" (56 percent of them, to be precise), and that most (71 percent) multiplayer gamers favor a mobile device such as a phone or tablet for their online experiences. 

That's not very far ahead of console-based multiplayer users though. Among multiplayer gamers, 61 percent of them said they're playing on console devices. 40 percent of them said they play on both mobile devices and console. 

These data points are actually left over from the Toxicity Report that Unity released over the summer, and came out of Unity's demographic analysis of surveyed players. They shared the data in conjunction with the launch of Unity Gaming Services, a new platform that combines Unity's Operate Solutions with other new products to help developers make cross-platform multiplayer games. 

With live services multiplayer games being a huge part of the game industry's revenue, it seems notable that the amount of American multiplayer users jumped by about 1/5th because of the pandemic. (It's also worth noting that the number isn't higher. This growth does show there was a chunk of people interested in multiplayer but was lacking in time or motivation, but it's not an extremely large chunk.)

Developers interested in checking out Unity's new Gaming Services tools can join the beta period, with immediate support for Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, and Windows. Console support is on an invite-only basis for the moment, but will go wide in the near future. 

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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