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The rise of eGaming during and after COVID-19

The growth of online gaming has been significant during the COVID-19 pandemic. But what do these new players look like, and how can the gaming community them for the long term?

The influence of COVID-19 on the eGaming community has become increasingly evident over the last several weeks. Whether relaxing on their couch with their console controller or planted in front of their home PC, amateur players have turned to eGaming to occupy their time during social distancing; this increase in gaming activity has the potential to drive significant revenue through online game purchases.

As key player demographics are comprised of those less likely to have access to credit cards, it’s important they are adequately supported in making purchases by way of alternative payment methods.

A social experience

Addressing a growing demand for eGaming entertainment during COVID-19, leading gaming companies are currently offering players reprieve during their isolation through deals and promotions. For example, in April PlayStation launched “Play at Home”, an initiative that provides free games to keep its community entertained, while also establishing a fund to help smaller independent game studios that may be experiencing financial difficulties. Other online platforms like Epic Games or Steam are also offering AAA titles for free or at bottom prices, while many MMO and Battle Royale games are constantly running events and competitions.

These initiatives have the added benefit of introducing, or perhaps even reintroducing, consumers to the world of eGaming and the extent of its online availability. Through greater accessibility to games online, companies nurture an environment where frequent gamers can encourage friends and family to participate as a way of staying connected. Old friendships and contacts forged in online guilds and teams are also rekindled as self-isolating middle-aged individuals are returning to their own online favourites in droves.

“It has never been more critical to ensure people stay safely connected to one another. Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose and meaning,” said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. Something that C-level executives like Kotick are sure to be watching closely is to what extent newly engaged players remain active once social distancing and stay-at-home measures are relaxed.

No game better epitomises the idea of community than Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Warzone with which paysafecard is partnered. Warzone, which was released on March 10, is a free-to-play combat game that features a Battle Royale allowing up to 150 players. Not only did the game reach 30 million downloads within two weeks of its release, but it also sparked a COV-AID charity challenge from NFL star Rob Gronkowski to eSports star Ninja and popular gaming organisation FaZe Clan.

Key demographics

Consumers have been empowered with more choice than ever and are being provided the opportunity to explore those options through free trials and discounts. To promote long-term engagement, products need to be made available to the most valuable segments of a company’s target market. In the case of online video game purchases, this means a younger base that is less likely to have access to credit cards.

Most gaming companies have created their own form of online payment options, including PlayStation and Steam, both of which are also established paysafecard partners. Other paysafecard partnerships include those that support in-game purchases for titles such as League of Legends, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Clash of Kingdoms, Big Farm and others.

According to a 2018 report by Earnest, the percentage of people who spend money on video games decreases with age, with those aged 18-24 the most likely to make purchases. This is where alternative prepaid online solutions, such as paysafecard, online cash replacement products, and digital wallets can serve to amplify the purchasing power of this target audience.

In Paysafe’s 2019 report - Lost in Transaction: Gen Z expectations at the checkout – we found that only 39% of Gen Z consumers regularly pay online with a credit card, compared to 49% of other consumers. In addition, a 2019 report from interaction management specialist Epsilon showed that Gen Z consumers are twice as likely to use an online-only store or brand website than any other generation.

This evidence reflects the heightened value and needs of eGaming’s most engaged demographic; it also emphasises the importance of secure and streamlined payment processes that make products and in-game purchases deliverable in a timeframe that meets their expectations.

Streaming into the future

In April, as a response to the global pandemic, Google announced that it would waive, for an indefinite period, the $130 entry fee for its cloud gaming service Stadia. Currently available in 14 countries, Stadia already seemed like a harbinger of an impending future where many forgo the expensive hardware commitment of traditional console gaming. Between Covid-19 and ongoing efforts by Amazon, Microsoft and others to build competing platforms, that future may be closer than originally thought.

Launched in November, Stadia’s timing could not have been better as it looks to establish a leadership role in the market. Even as the world gradually reclaims some semblance of normalcy, more gamers will likely have become enamored with the service than would have otherwise. In a changed world, those same customers may also see streaming as a reliable way of safeguarding a main source of entertainment.

Already a partner of Google Play, paysafecard is an example of an alternative payment method that could prove essential for such companies, hoping to cater to their key demographics. And those demographics are even more likely to invest their time in streaming services with forthcoming standalone 5G networks that could provide lower latency and ensure quality gaming experiences.

More than ever, eGaming has the potential to encourage the formation of new online social networks and build a broader sense of community. Gaming companies can foster and facilitate those connections by working to ensure accessibility as well as a suitable selection of payment methods.