2020 was shaping up to be a big year for gamers everywhere. Upcoming, big hit titles and the next generation of consoles should have been the topics taking up all the headlines and conversations everywhere, but the year is turning up to be a big year for a different reason. The advent of the Coronavirus spelled troubles for countries all around the world, and spells trouble for gamers and gaming.
The coronavirus is an infectious disease that was first identified in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province in China. It is highly transmittable, traveling via droplets expelled when infected individuals cough or breathe.
Due to how the disease affects people’s respiratory systems, worldwide health organizations recommend people practice clean hygiene in the hands and face, as well as wear surgical masks to further protect and filter their breathing. People in heavily affected areas should also avoid coming into contact with people for their mutual safety and protection in case of potential infection.
Due to its infectious nature, there have been over 80,000 confirmed cases with 34 countries apart from mainland China, such as South Korea and Italy. This disease is the topic of worldwide discussion and paranoia. It is hard to go through the day and interact with other people when the risk of such an illness looms over everyone. It is recommended that people avoid contact as much as possible and stay within their homes, which, ironically, shouldn’t impact the gamer demographic.
Still, the disease has impacted businesses throughout China, which not only extends the problem to its people but to gamers—and gaming by extension.
Impact of the Virus on Console Production
The first big news dropped related to the coronavirus was by Nintendo in early February regarding production shortages for their Switch home console, which is produced in China. Currently, the country is facing a shortage for the console and related merchandise. Nintendo assured the world that the shortage would only affect Japan and not the western markets, but recent speculation suggests otherwise.
Research done by Bloomberg detailed how the US market’s supply of Switch consoles was produced at a Nintendo assembly partner’s factory in Vietnam, which would explain why the US markets would not be immediately affected by the same shortage plaguing Japan.
However, the production center in Vietnam receives hardware components from China to produce the console, and with the current state of slowed production, delays may be inevitable once existing inventories and current shipments have sold out. Estimation suggests the Switch shipment for April could face shortages and delays. With big hit titles such as Animal Crossing looming over the horizon, this could not be worse timing for Nintendo.
Other companies such as Sony and Microsoft have yet to comment on whether the coronavirus will affect their upcoming consoles. However, it can be speculated that these next-generation consoles will be affected, as both companies are having their consoles manufactured and produced in China.
China’s manufacturing sector is heavily responsible for producing a vast majority of the world’s electronics, devices, and gadgets, and has been hit particularly hard by the disease’s outbreak. Major tech corporations, such as Google, Samsung, and Apple, all temporarily shut down offices and manufacturing factories across China in light of the virus.
With console production supposedly underway for both of these companies—and the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launch coming ever closer—fans could potentially see delays in the coming months as well as a limited launch supply due to the disease’s potential effect on production.
Events and E-Sports
The outbreak has made it hard for people to gather together in public spaces, especially for events that bring people from all around the world, out of fear of contagion. It doesn’t help when major news outlets further panic by speculating that the disease’s outbreak could be imminent across countries. However, the fear and anxiety is very much real, with many organizations taking precautions, including competitive E-Sports.
Blizzard’s Overwatch League originally planned matches in the 2020 season to be hosted overseas in China and South Korea due to the number of Korean and Chinese players and teams representing their home cities in the Overwatch professional competitive scene. It was the first time the league would do so and was to be a huge step forward for marketing the league’s brand.
Unfortunately, in these last two months, Blizzard has announced that all matches to be held in China would be canceled due to the danger posed by the virus. Blizzard had originally intended for the canceled matches to be “made-up” in South Korea so the teams and fans could still see the games.
However, South Korea was also affected by the disease’s outbreak, with the number of reported cases climbing up to nearly 1,000. Player safety was the top priority for the Overwatch League, so the make-up games planned to be held in South Korea were also subsequently canceled.
Other competitive gaming scenes were affected by the disease, particularly the competitive League of Legends venues in South Korea and China.
On top of the coronavirus’ effect on E-Sports, conferences like PAX East and the Game Developers Conference (GDC) had a dip in attendance. The GDC is held in California, where 15 cases of the virus have been confirmed. A GDC representative posted the following statement in light of the disease to address concerns:
“We believe that, based on the strict U.S. quarantine around coronavirus and a large number of enhanced on-site measures, we are able to execute a safe and successful event for our community.
“We are also continuing to follow the latest CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organization) guidance, following in the footsteps of other large international events that are taking place successfully at the Moscone Center.”
However, companies like Sony, Facebook, and Electronic Arts have all pulled out completely from the conference due to concern for employee health and safety. Big industry names such as Hideo Kojima have also canceled attendance, remarking on the cancelation as “a difficult decision.”
The globetrotting virus continues to affect the world as the situation around the disease unfolds.