What are Gamers Playing during the Pandemic? 2020 Top Gaming Trends

It is no surprise that game companies and adjacent businesses have done nothing but prosper during the COVID-19 pandemic this year. With nations loosely (some cases strongly) enforcing a shelter-in-place mandate, and the live entertainment industry shut down in many countries worldwide, more and more people are turning to games for entertainment.

We all know that Battle Royale, MOBA, and FPS games are going strong — and there’s no denying that during the pandemic they have seen increased numbers. However, these genres were doing quite well in 2019, and it is no surprise that they remain healthy.

That being said, you may be surprised by some of the recent expanding gaming trends, genres that have seen popularity boosts, and technology that is flying off the shelves during the pandemic.

Casual Party Games for Socialization

Jackbox Games have always been popular, but have seen massive sales increase after March of this year.

With the recommendation for people to social distance to reduce the spread of COVID-19, technologies that allow people to communicate and socialize remotely have ramped up in popularity. Zoom meeting, Google Hangouts, FaceTime-style dating apps, and more have seen a huge uptick in users. That goes double for online games.

Online party games that may have been considered too “casual” for PC and console gamers have become paramount parts of staying in touch with close friends and family. Sometimes these games are called “social arcade” games — due to their short session times. Most of these games are light on mechanics and have easy-to-learn controls, suited for all ages and tech-literacy. Some great examples of these games are:

  • Jackbox Party Pack
  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Joepardy

While these games have seen higher install and DAU rates, they are mostly relegated to bridging the gap between gamers and non-gamers.

Rise of the Party Battler

Fall Guys has become one of the fastest trending Party Battlers this year.

For those more comfortable with games, the “Party Battler” genre has become wildly popular. If you remember the “.io” trend of a few years ago, consider this it’s older, more polished brother, with a splash of Battle Royale.

Party Battlers are online games that pit players against each other towards a common goal, and the last one standing, the most successful player wins. The great thing about these games is that they are generally less mechanics intensive as their older brother, the Battle Royale. Many times, the party battler is not a fighting game — players are competing against the environment, or some common enemy. Some examples of Party Battlers that have seen success during the pandemic

  • Fall Guys
  • Moving Out
  • Among Us
  • Overcooked
  • Unrailed!

If you check Twitch circa August 2020, you will certainly see games like these conquering the “top viewer count” list. Party Battlers seem to be a genre that has distilled the needs of gamers this year.

HOW long is that game? Good!

If you are not the “party” type, then you are likely to steer clear of games in the Party Battler category. However, games with lengthy plots, sporting 100s of hours of play time, have seen an uptick of purhcases / installs.

  • Persona 5 Royale
  • Witcher 3
  • Outer Worlds
  • Last of Us 2

This comes as no surprise, as the number one reason why gamers are returning to gaming is More time on our hands (with “means of socialization” being a close second).

MMOs Raiding Your Free Time

With all of this time #StayingHome, gamers are left with more free time than they used to have. Those of us who have move past MMOs now have time to re-explore worlds we once enjoyed during our school days. It is no surprise that MMOs have seen the number of returning users sky-rocket during the onset of the global pandemic. Top MMOs whose numbers peaked include

  • World of Warcraft
  • Final Fantasy 14
  • Guild Wars 2
  • EVE Online
  • RuneScape

VR Uptrends

The much-sought-after Oculus Rift S

If you have been looking for a VR headset during these times, you were simply out of luck! Oculus Quest and Rift S gear have been sold out constantly since March, brought on by gamers choosing VR as a way to immerse in games.

There is something to be said about the sudden rise of VR. Last year, while VR games have been steadily hitting Steam and other marketplaces, they have not garnered widespread traction. Now, with VR being the closest thing to being in the same room with our friends, family and co-workers, it feels like a no-brainer.

Mixed in with the list of 2020’s most beloved VR games are games that we all recognize. VR-enhancing games has become another trend — and at a very opportune time as well.

  • Half-life Alyx
  • VR Chat
  • Beat Saber
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • No Man’s Sky

What have you been playing during the COVID-19 pandemic? What trends have you found? Feel free to leave a comment and discuss

Freelance game designer / developer. Full stack developer. Board game geek and cat tamer.

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