Activision and EA Reckon New Gamers Brought In by COVID-19 Are Here to Stay

Alessio Palumbo
COVID-19 and gaming GameStop

Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts both had their quarterly reports out yesterday. As expected, during the respective follow-up earning calls, investors inquired about the long-term outlook of the increased player engagement, particularly with regards to the new players coming in because of the lockdown measures enforced globally to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both companies expressed the conviction that these new players are here to stay even after the COVID-19 situation is resolved, as you can read in the following quote excerpts.

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Dennis Durkin (Activision Blizzard CFO): It does seem like that there is a likelihood that even once shelter-at-home ends, that it may be a fair amount of time before people are really returning to normal as we know it. So we do think that there is potentially an acceleration to the structural change that we’ve seen in consumer entertainment, consumption patterns that we’ve already been seen in gaming.

And that trend could persist for the long term, which would obviously benefit social, yet socially distant categories, like gaming. We’ve already seen this with the younger generation of consumers, where gaming is more an integrated part of their social entertainment fabric. And times like these will make that activity, we believe even more mainstream.

We’re obviously trying to lean into this and welcome as many players into our ecosystem as possible and bring more gamers into our communities and give them a compelling experience that hopefully turns them into long term fans. We don’t really have any great data points right now on what happens to consumption, when people returned from shelter-at-home. But we have seen in Asia that the strong momentum continues, even as they started to transition back.

So we hope that’s a sign of the similar opportunity we may have in other parts of the world as they start to return to normal as well. So, generally speaking, we think there’s a pretty big opportunity here to see and then acceleration in the long term structural shifts that we’ve already seen, from the existing heightened engagement.

Andrew Wilson (Electronic Arts CEO): There are many, many new players who are coming and discovering just how wonderful games are and the joy of games and how spectacularly they can bring people together. And our expectation is that people having invested this time and built relationships with friends through new games they are playing will continue to drive engagement over the long term.

And our objective, of course, is to fully support them as they move through this COVID-19 phase and ensure that we’re able to continue to fulfill the motivations they have, even as we get on the other side of this.

And what we are seeing through this period of time is as more people come to recognize the true joy of interactive entertainment, the true joy of gaming. Even as I think linear media has also benefited through this time, I do believe that engagement will be more consistent in the interactive industry over time.

I do believe we’re seeing new players come in who maybe hadn’t played before and who are experiencing the goodness that comes from connecting with friends in a truly interactive environment through games. We’re excited about that. We’re excited to deliver new and interesting and innovative and creative entertainment to fans. And we’re very happy to see that the whole strategy of a broad and deep portfolio that speaks to and entertains a global diverse audience is answering the needs of the global community this time.

Two of the biggest gaming publishers in the industry are rather bullish on the player base growth induced by COVID-19, then. However, both of them also cautioned investors that the incoming global recession could impact spending trends, even though gaming previously proved to be resilient in such times as users consider it to be a comparatively inexpensive entertainment medium.

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