Didn’t get that PS5 you wanted for the holidays (and didn’t want to pay outrageous re-seller prices*)? Never fear. The gaming world has plenty more to offer for digital entertainment, and the industry has only grown more lucrative as youth and families stayed home during the pandemic.
Gaming has proven a powerful force of connection for those separated into small pods of family—both within the nuclear bond and with friends outside the bubble. More than a quarter of people played games to stay in touch with each other during the first wave of lockdowns, according to Nielsen’s SuperData review of 2020. Esports and big-ticket prizes notwithstanding, adults and children enjoy the friendly competition of games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Brands are getting in on the fun too, with Hellmann’s using a virtual island in the game to educate viewers about food waste.
Others are getting game-y with Among Us, the imposter-extermination spaceship game from 2018 with simplistic and inviting graphics that is enjoying a renaissance. Among Us could be characterized as the Fortnite of 2020, with teens skiving off class to engage, sometimes with multiple games going at one time. Even U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played a public game on Twitch, attracting nearly half a million viewers. If neither of those are your cup of gaming tea, look at Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. There’s no killing, it’s lighthearted cuteness similar to Animal Crossing, and thus appropriate for everyone in the family.
In therapeutic news, EndeavorRX made history in the summer of 2020 by becoming the first game to be approved by the FDA as a prescription-based therapy for youth with ADHD. These students were hit particularly hard by the lack of special education services during school shutdowns, and the game has been clinically proven to help these youth focus. Not to be outdone in the positive impact space, Buzzfeed launched its first-ever mobile game, Run Boggo Run, which revolves around the theme of mental health. Players avoid anxiety and stress, rely on friends for help, and collect tokens for performing self-care. If ever parents and youth needed an emotional boost from a game, it’s now.
The darling platforms and games of the last few years continue to thrive and evolve. YouTuber Ryan Kaji (one of the original unboxers under the title Ryan Toys Review) launched his own Roblox virtual world where fans can play. Roblox also took a lesson from the success of Fortnite live virtual parties and started launching its own. The smartest brands have been partnering with Roblox on digital fashions—if gamers can’t go to the mall, their avatars can still have style on point, right? Fortnite isn’t fading quietly away either, despite a few prior releases receiving lackluster reviews. It came back strong with a Marvel-themed update to delight anyone with interest in the superhero-verse. Minecraft continues to reinvent itself as well, with the latest release, Minecraft Dungeons, to maintain interest among sophisticated players while still offering simple entry-level worlds for younger or beginner gamers.
The gaming world has been in a unique position to meet players where they are, especially when they’re spending more time than usual at home. How can you explore partnerships that will introduce your brand into the digital lifestyle and forge loyalties that will remain – especially when parents and youth can have more real-life recreation in the coming years?
* References: Video Games Chronicle: PS5 scalpers are ‘threatening the long-term health’ of the console, report claims