Effects of the coronavirus on gambling and gaming industry

As the total time spent at home increases due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, millions of people are turning to video games, video-streaming platforms, online casinos, and sports betting sites. In times of crisis, engaging in PR activities can represent both a challenge and an opportunity for these particular industries.

Classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the coronavirus outbreak is affecting almost every aspect of our lives. Around the globe, millions of people are staying at home and implementing social-distancing measures in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus.

All around the world, governments are locking down cities, states, and counties to cope with the crisis. According to The Guardian, over 1.7 billion people worldwide were under lockdown as of March 24. This means that roughly 20 percent of the global population cannot leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, the closure of bars, restaurants, cinemas, movie theaters and sports venues has led more people to use online entertainment tools to pass time during the long hours of isolation. This, in turn, has led to the appearance of digital social hubs, with streaming and gaming platforms becoming popular hangouts for millions of people.

Gaming and streaming: Setting new records

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are turning to game content – both playing and watching – more than ever before. Due to the crisis and ongoing lockdowns, prominent streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming, are experiencing all-time highs in terms of viewership.

According to data provided by StreamElements, an online broadcasting service provider, Twitch’s daily viewership numbers jumped 31 percent in March, up by almost 10 million viewing-hours per day. YouTube Gaming, meanwhile, the second-largest streaming service, saw a 13-percent rise in total hours watched and a 14-percent rise in total hours streamed during the first three months of 2020. During the same period, Facebook Gaming, which enjoys an 11-percent share of the market, has seen a 20-percent increase in total hours watched and an 11-percent increase in total hours streamed.

In March, Steam, the largest video-gaming and distribution service, also hit an all-time high, with nearly 20 million active users simultaneously using its platform. And on March 15, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, one of the world’s most popular computer games, also broke its previous record, drawing a whopping 1.15 million concurrent players.

The WHO teams up with gaming industry leaders

On March 28, gaming companies from all over the world joined forces to encourage players to follow WHO safety guidelines. In partnership with the Geneva-based WHO, gaming industry leaders launched an initiative, dubbed #PlayApartTogether, to encourage gamers to practice social-distancing measures and follow the WHO’s safety recommendations. With a view to helping gamers stay safe while remaining connected, the initiative was soon joined by several of the world’s biggest gaming companies. These included Activision Blizzard, Amazon Appstore, Big Fish Games, Dirtybit, Glu Mobile, Jam City, Kabam, Maysalward, Playtika, Pocket Gems, Rocket Games, Riot Games, SciPlay, Snap Games, Twitch, Unity, Wooga, Youtube Gaming, and Zynga.

What #PlayApartTogether partners are saying

  • Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard

“Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose and meaning. We are proud to participate in such a worthwhile and necessary initiative.”

  • Nicolo Laurent, CEO of Riot Games

“Physical distancing shouldn’t mean social isolation! Let’s stay physically apart – and take other public health steps such as hand hygiene – to help flatten the curve and #PlayApartTogether to help power through this crisis.”

  • Michael Aragon, SVP of Content at Twitch

“The #PlayApartTogether initiative is a reminder that even while it's crucial we keep our distance from one another, we can keep enjoying the games we love and stay connected with people online.”

  • Ryan Wyatt, Global Head of Gaming at YouTube

“Gamers know how to come together, even when we're apart, so let's be safe during this time and do our part as an industry to flatten the curve.”

Online casinos thrive during the pandemic

Compared to other sectors, online casinos, gambling companies, and sports betting platforms have all enjoyed a distinct advantage, since their products are conducive to, and even encourage, social distancing. Whether it’s to have fun, make extra money, or simply to pass the time, people all over the world are turning to online gambling and casino websites.

Already robust even before the pandemic, the online gambling industry has seen massive surges in traffic – and revenue – as a direct result of the crisis. According to a recent report by New Jersey’s Department of Gaming Enforcement, there has been a 64-percent increase in online Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) since the pandemic first hit the US. And according to a survey carried out in the UK, 39 percent of regular gamblers are betting online more than they did before the outbreak. As a result of this increased demand, online casinos are doing their best to make the most of the situation. Many of them are drawing new players – and retaining existing ones – by offering new promotions and rewards, holding various events and tournaments, and introducing new features on their respective platforms. And in this scramble to draw new customers, online PR has emerged as the most effective way to raise the profile and bolster the online presence of gaming companies.

Online PR: Turning the crisis into an opportunity

Companies around the world are using online PR to encourage gamers to play together online through streaming platforms and make extra money at online casinos. In these trying times, conducting PR poses serious challenges for entertainment, gaming, and gambling companies. The state of the media, and the regulatory environment, differs from country to country – and so do the possibilities. Therefore, corporate planning and communications must be approached with both care and precision.

For information on the market dynamics of the countries in which your business operates, or for help writing up an online press release, contact B2Press at [email protected]. Europe’s first online PR agency, B2Press is helping its business partners in more than 30 countries around the world.

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