With 2020 consumed almost entirely by the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of US residents turned to video games to fill the time. According to Nielsen company SuperData’s 2020 year in review, 55 percent of people picked up video games — out of boredom, to escape the real world, to socialize — during the first phase of lockdowns.
The shift points to a larger one in entertainment. Movie theaters, sports, plays, and more have been largely inaccessible, if not outright dangerous to public health. Just as streaming, both of the Twitch and Netflix variety, became a huge source of entertainment, so did games — especially for adults. According to SuperData, 66 percent of consumers from 18 to 24 played more console games, while 60 percent played more mobile titles. Unsurprisingly, buyers also tended toward digital purchases.
SuperData reports that 27 percent of people — about 1 in 4 — played games to stay in touch with each other. In 2020, games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Among Us became cultural touchstones. Animal Crossing was the hit of the early pandemic, while Among Us had nearly half a billion players in November alone. Politicians like Joe Biden and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez capitalized on their popularity to raise awareness for the year’s presidential election. Even Pokémon Go managed to adapt to the pandemic and grow 39 percent year over year, thanks to Niantic’s updates.
As physical spaces disappeared, video games became one of the few places for people to spend time together — whether that was to enjoy virtual concerts in Fortnite, learn how to vote, or just hang out. SuperData estimates that digital games alone garnered $126.6 billion over the course of the year. The numbers may not spike this year as much as they did in 2020, but SuperData predicts “the long-term habits formed during lockdown are here to stay.”