Video gaming is thriving under coronavirus conditions

Nintendo Switch has sold more consoles in March than at launch thanks to COVID-19

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It’s not just TV that is having a resurgence during the coronavirus pandemic. The video game industry is having its best month in terms of sales – having increased by 35 percent in the past year thus far with about $1.6 billion spent in the month of March alone, according to data compiled by The NPD Group.

This large number combines spending on gaming accessories, hardware and software.

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The only other year to have higher first-quarter revenue in video game history was 2008, which yielded $1.8 billion by March as The Great Recession began to escalate with a national unemployment rate of 5.1 percent.

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Fast-forward to March 2020, which had an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and it appears that history can be repeating itself in terms of video game sales.

“As communities have practiced social distancing and observed stay-at-home orders across the United States over the past weeks, many people have turned to video games as a means of finding connections,” said Mat Piscatella, a games industry analyst at The NPD Group. “Whether together on the couch playing locally, or playing online, gaming has generated increased engagement, which has resulted in corresponding increases in consumer spend.”

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Before the coronavirus became a national emergency in the U.S., sales in the aforementioned video game categories had fallen by 28 percent when compared to the same time last year – earning $1.4 billion combined.

However, by March, all the categories experienced double-digit sales increases, according to The NPD Group.

Video game accessories saw an uptick of 12 percent, earning $397 million in part from gamepad spending for consoles such as the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, Piscatella explained in a tweet. He added that headset and headphone spending also contributed to the month’s record sales thanks to consoles like the Xbox One.

Accessories maker Turtle Beach had the best-selling headset for “both the month and the first quarter” with its wireless Xbox One Ear Force Stealth 600 model.

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Video game hardware sales saw the highest spike out of the three categories with spending shooting up to $461 million – a 63 percent increase compared to last year. Sales for the Nintendo Switch console more than doubled compared to its previous year, which set an all-time high for the device and beat even its launch day sales traffic, according to The NPD Group’s data.

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were the other two top contenders that experienced sales growth of more than 25 percent in the first quarter of 2020 having earned $773 million.

Similarly, video game software sales grew by 34 percent in March, reaching $739 million in spending for downloadable digital games, which isn’t as surprising considering most states have enacted stay-at-home mandates that make visits to physical retailers difficult.

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March 2020 was a milestone for software sales that neared its March 2011 record of $787 million, however, The NPD Group noted this year’s first-quarter spending in the category fell by 8 percent compared to last year, which has yielded $1.4 billion.

Nine of the top-10 best-selling video games reportedly generated higher dollar sales than the top 10 games of last year, according to The NPD Group. The simulation game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” was the best-seller for March.

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“While steep transaction declines are being seen across multiple industries during the pandemic, consumer spend on entertainment is strong, especially in video games,” said Rob Liguori, the president of games at The NPD Group.