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Virtual Pandemic: How COVID-19 will affect the game industry

Remember the famous pandemic game “Plague Inc”? The game in which you spread a lethal virus in the world and many people lose their lives. No one could imagine “Plague Inc” will occur in the real world.  But now, we are facing the same situation. Our world is affected by The new Coronavirus “Covid-19” and everything is changing.

The virus is changing economics, it’s changing the political landscape, and most of all, it’ll change our habits. As Yuval Noah Harari has written in his article regarding the virus: “This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come”

The future is bright

Seriously though, who would’ve thought that after all world-ending scenarios we’ve all seen in movies and games and read in literature, a pandemic would be so…boring! And so quiet too.

 

 Most of the people I know are killing their time by playing video games right now. Steam has broken records after records in sales. The game industry, unlike many other industries, is booming. What is happening here? 

 

As unpleasant as this new lifestyle might seem, this is a huge moment for the entertainment industry, and particularly for the gaming industry. But all of these extreme circumstances beg some questions to mind. For you, whether you’re a gamer or a professional in the industry and for us, who are participants of the industry, the questions can be summed up in just a few short ones: what are we doing? What lessons can be learned from this experience, what responsibilities do we have here, and what should we be doing in specific terms? Let’s take a brief look.

coronavirus
The Coronavirus ruined everything, but the game industry is a huge opportunity now.

What are we doing?

Right now social distancing is the name of the game, but while practicing this wet dream of antisocial people, what exactly are you doing? Well, if you’re a regular person, especially of ages 20-40, you’re probably spending most of your time web browsing, YouTubing, bing-watching, and most of all, playing videogames. So all in all, life as usual, right?

 

But it’s not just about us nerds and geeks. The normies are being forced to become like us too. Just look at this viral video of Italian officials lashing out at their citizens who don’t take social distancing seriously:

The fourth clip in the video depicts the mayor of Bari, who is outraged at a couple of kids playing ping pong outside and tells them to go back home and play some video games. Funny how the tables have turned, right? But it’s not just funny, it’s also wise. You’ve probably heard the phrase “flattening the curve” by now, which is a very simple mathematical concept of controlling the peak of the normal curve of the spread of the virus so that it doesn’t overwhelm the medical systems. Watch this incredible video from 3blue1brown channel, which explains by simulations how simple behaviors like handwashing and social distancing affect the fatality rate and spread of a contagious disease: 

Covid-19 is not the only thing going viral...

there is an important takeaway in this situation: this is an opportunity and a moral one at that. The gaming industry can both save lives and make an absolute fortune. The famous gaming website “Steam”, broke its all-time concurrent users record. More than 20 million people were online at once in March 2020. People whom I never would’ve considered to even have the capability of becoming gamers. Games are seeing more attention than usual, and it only makes sense. 

 

So what trajectory this vector is leading us towards? Or let’s ask this in different terms: is the Coronavirus necessarily a bad thing for both big and small businesses? You’ll be shocked if I say no, but that’s exactly what I’m gonna say.. 

plague inc game
In these days of modern plague, maybe it’s better to stay home and play some plague games?

What lessons can be learned?

Now here’s the next big takeaway. Right now, most industries are closed. Factories can’t work anymore. Movie and TV productions are suspended. The huge traditional industries are just getting destroyed. In the US, for instance, the government is starting to do what they did in the 2008 recession: a huge bailout for businesses and corporations. That appears to be the only way the world economy can survive. 

US stock market
Just look at the free fall of US stock markets during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is what happens when you have a monolithic traditional system of production and cooperation in a new open-source world. And here’s the catch: the gaming industry was never touched by the great recession of 2008 by the numbers we have available. Think about it: why this one industry saw an increase in hiring numbers during that period of economic turmoil instead of getting destroyed?

Should all industries be affected this way?

 Well, not necessarily. At least not our industry. First of all, people still have money. Most western countries, even the most capitalist ones like the US, have introduced stimulus packages to help people in this period. Ideas like universal basic income now seem more reasonable than ever. But although people do have money, now they can’t spend it on restaurants and cruise ships. Now they should entertain themselves from home. That’s where we enter the game (literally).

Here’s another good news: all this fiasco might cause some good in the end. It seems like companies are learning a valuable lesson: most of the things their workers used to do by personal, physical attendance, can be done remotely by the internet. This is important. The practical efficiency of companies after we pass this Covid-19 storm could skyrocket if companies do understand that they don’t need central offices. They don’t need to drag their workers to the workplace, make them pay in both money and time for transportation, and create opportunities for procrastination and laziness because of the boring environment of classic workplaces. No…now they finally know what all of us knew for years and were screaming it from the rooftops: WE CAN WORK FROM HOME! 

work from home

Can the game industry cope with this new system of production?

 It all depends on the way we have been preparing for something like this. The process of game production is especially a modular one, with no need for the physical presence of the staff, and can be done perfectly fine remotely. Animators, designers, programmers, story writers, they all can do their work from home and to be honest, a lot of them have been doing it this way already for a long time. There just needs to be a system of correct infrastructures in place.

 

That’s when outsourcing companies like game studios come into play. Many indie game studios like Pixune have had an efficient modular outsourced decentralized system of production for quite a long time, and now in this time of the global quarantine, it’s all paying off. Internet companies, game studios, telecommunicate-based corporations, and open-source systems of bureaucracy were barely affected by this pandemic. Meanwhile, many government officials all around the world still haven’t come up with a good way of just holding a private meeting without the need of actually meeting.

 

The Future is Now

This is not just a lesson for a time of crisis. Pandemic or not, the future of mass human cooperation is via remote tools and outsourcing models. But a situation like the Covid-19 pandemic just goes to show how fragile and weak the old and traditional systems of business and industry are. So wake up world! Catch up with the gaming industry! It might be too late by the time the next big one hits the globe. 

 

And beyond that, it’s about time the game studios themselves wake up too. Many of them are still working traditionally. Move already! Empower your online infrastructures, apply modular models in the fabric of your companies, and use this opportunity to make yourselves known to customers who might not know even in a global crisis like this, some studios continue their projects and fulfill their commitments without endangering their employees. 

What are our responsibilities?

Recently I was reading a news article about the way the British prime minister, Boris Johnson is trying to communicate and educate UK citizens about the virus. The plan is to write a letter by PM himself and send it to every household in the United Kingdom, containing guidelines about the current national emergency. Now I don’t know about you, but I think this is a bad way of informing the public. If for nothing else, for the simple reason that the virus might come into households by the letters themselves. 

 

Are there any better ways? I think so. And that might be one of the responsibilities the gaming industry has at this moment. People are staying at home and playing our games. They’re all online and we can transmit data to them. We can make small changes in our games and apply them to all their devices.

How animation studios are coping with coronavirus 

 

What can we do, you might ask? Fill the loading pages and UIs with
information about the virus. Provide guidelines on how to avoid getting the virus and spreading it. Educate people about the proper way of washing their hands and taking care of their loved ones by our games. We are in every house in this world. We have great power. Surely there must come some great responsibility with it, right? 

What should we do?

This is the big one: what, specifically, in certain and clear terms, should we, meaning the indie game companies, gamers, professionals and critics of the industry, do to help the health service providers, emergency responders and other brave people who are risking their lives for the sake of keeping this thing we call “human civilization” going?

We at Pixune have already closed our office and are working from home. Rest assured, our studio is still very much active. But even if we weren’t, people’s lives are more important than money, and we don’t mean just our own lives. If you are just a mere career of the virus, it means you’re killing some other poor lad without even knowing it when you hop on the bus to get to work or see some friend. STOP ALL THE MURDERING.

Checklist: The Basics

  • For the love of God, start the self-quarantine: Some studios and companies are still making their employees come into the workplace and work from there. DON’T DO IT. Use remote tools we’ve mentioned above. Don’t go to work. Stop visiting your relatives and friends. Hold on your shopping sprees. We’re not cavemen anymore. USE THE INTERNET. Just believe in the efficiency and productivity of remote production.
  • Use this crisis in your favor and eliminate unnecessary costs: okay, this is fairly simple and straight forward: if you’ve already quarantined and closed your offices, you’re not paying any bills for electricity, gas, water, etc. right? Right then. Now get your head around this: what if all of those costs could’ve been avoided before Covid-19 outbreak? The thing is, they really could’ve. World’s industries just weren’t ready to see it. Add to this the amount of cost savings from not using transportation systems by the employees, and think about the amount of money that was wasted before, just for the sake of tradition of attendance in the workplace.
  • Let’s save the planet: Beyond all of these economic points, the earth is finally breathing. No environmental accord could ever do what the Coronavirus has done in these few months for mother earth, and please be aware that breathing the pollution is also a cost we were all paying before and now can be eliminated thanks to remote working.

Covid-19: A Costly Lesson

 The cost was our lives, our years, and minutes and seconds on earth. After Covid-19 passes, and it will pass, we’re going to have to take a serious look at carbon and pollution data in this period and ask ourselves some important questions.

 If the Coronavirus has shown us anything, it’s the fact that climate change and global warming can be addressed and solved easily by both the nations and corporations, only if we’re ready to take the effort and do something about it and change the way we think about concepts like “office jobs”.

coronavirus stats
In China alone, coal use has seen a massive decrease duo to the Coronavirus outbreak. Bad for miners? Maybe. Good for the planet? Definitely

Solutions

  • Redistribution of risk: no. I’m not talking about some socialist wealth redistribution idea. It’s a moderate and non-controversial concept: companies can decrease their workers’ real pay and instead, distribute a fraction of the benefits of projects among them. This is a strategy FDR described as “saving capitalism from itself” and there are various methods of employing it, the simplest of which is sharing the stocks of the company with its workers. Of course, these extreme circumstances require extreme measures, so when a company does it, it’s sharing the risk of losing money and the benefits of gaining it with its employees and therefore, creating real motivation for people to work.
  • Outsource: If you’re a small company, a customer, a giant company, and anyone who needs a job to get done, outsource your projects to studios or individuals, especially the ones that are using remote production methods like Pixune. 
  • Take advantage of the stimulus packages: as we’ve mentioned earlier, many countries are offering stimulus packages, UBI, direct money deposits, and other methods of getting money directly to people’s hands.
More Info on Stimulus Packages:

Japan is spending near $1 trillion, Singapore is offering its fourth package of $3.6 billion. Canada recently doubled the initial C$27 billion they were offering to C$52 billion.

 Furthermore, countries like the US are offering bailouts for big businesses. So if you’re a small company, an individual, or even a giant corporation, use these packages to your advantage. Everyone else is doing so. If you don’t, you’ll fall behind in the market. There’s a reason why governments all around the world are spending these dazzling amounts of money. Your contribution to the economy, no matter how small, matters for the global economy and its continuous existence.

economic stimulus

 

 Stimulus which governments have taken into account for saving businesses.
  • Save some money: this one’s a no brainer. Your expenses have been decreased dramatically because of the social distancing guidelines and programs. So save up your money. You can invest in promising markets like the game industry if you wish.
  • Advertise the hell out of yourself: If there’s one place you definitely should spend your money as a game studio, it’s the advertisement. As I’ve already mentioned several times in this article, the gaming is booming right now. It’s comparable to none other parables in economic history. If you can’t find a strong footing right now and in this period, you never will. I’m serious. We have started our advertising campaign ourselves. This is not just a platitude. It’s real advice.
Innovative advertising

 

 An innovative ad from an insurance company.
Last but definitely not the least:
  • Take your social responsibilities seriously: earlier we discussed how each game company has a set of responsibilities towards its society. Take those seriously. We’re tackling them by writing articles like this one, sharing our gains with our employees which is a form of risk redistribution, working from home, and following social distancing guidelines.

Conclusion ​

So in short, we’re in a difficult situation and have some moral and ethical commitments. But at the same time, we’re at a crossroads of entertainment history. Covid-19 outbreak is without a doubt an unpleasant experience, most of all for people who’re going to lose loved ones. But at the same time, there are some opportunities and lessons hidden in this pandemic. The choice is ours and ours alone: we can either learn from this and then enter a new, better world past the apocalypse or we can linger on this incident and insist on living in the old apocalyptic world, till we die in it.

But like all the other instances in human history, what truly saves us is the mass cooperation of humanity and the hive mind of ideas that make innovation and creativity not just fancy words, but solid realities. 

Now it’s your turn to pay your share of innovation: what do you think should be done? What ways have you thought of that can help us get over this period and come out stronger than ever? Let us know.

Right now social distancing is the name of the game, but while practicing this wet dream of antisocial people, what exactly are you doing? Well, if you’re a regular person, especially of ages 20-40, you’re probably spending most of your time web browsing, YouTubing, bing-watching, and most of all, playing videogames. So all in all, life as usual, right?

 

But it’s not just about us nerds and geeks. The normies are being forced to become like us too. Just look at this viral video of Italian officials lashing out at their citizens who don’t take social distancing seriously:

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