U.S. consumers turn to video games as a means of finding connections during pandemic

Port Washington, NY, April 21, 2020 –  According to The NPD Group, March 2020 tracked spending across video game hardware, software, accessories and game cards totaled $1.6 billion*, gaining 35 percent when compared to the same time period last year. This is the highest reported spend for a March month since the $1.8 billion achieved in March 2008. Year-to-date 2020 (Q1) tracked spending across these categories totaled $3.0 billion, declining 4 percent when compared to Q1 2019. 

The first two months of this year saw cumulative sales across video game hardware, software, accessories and game cards fall 28 percent to $1.4 billion when compared to the same time period last year, with January sales declining 26 percent, and February sales falling 29 percent. Late cycle video game hardware dynamics, as well as a lighter new release software slate, drove the variance.

All video game categories, however, experienced double-digit sales increases in March, with hardware, software, and accessories & game cards increasing 63 percent, 34 percent, and 12 percent, respectively. 

“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. Whether together on the couch playing locally, or playing online, gaming has generated increased engagement, which has resulted in corresponding increases in consumer spend,” said Mat Piscatella, games industry analyst at The NPD Group. 

Nine of the top 10 best-selling video games of March 2020 generated higher dollar sales than similarly ranked titles a year ago. Dollar sales of tracked video game software grew to $739 million, the highest total for a March month since 2011.  Hardware spending in March 2020 grew to $461 million and first quarter hardware spending increased by 2 percent, to $773 million. Total March 2020 spending on accessories and game cards reached $397 million, a record high for accessories and game cards in a March month.

“At NPD, we are tracking weekly consumer spending changes across entertainment due to COVID-19. With schools closing and shelter-in-place orders going out across multiple states, U.S. consumers’ habits reflect the need to live primarily indoors for the foreseeable future,” said Rob Liguori, president, Games at The NPD Group. “While steep transaction declines are being seen across multiple industries during the pandemic, consumer spend on entertainment is strong, especially in video games.”

*New physical retail sales are projected up to 100% of the U.S. retail market, while the full-game download sales represent only those titles from publishers participating in NPD’s digital panel.

The Games Market Dynamic report remains NPD’s official estimation of all content monetization methods including used games, digital full game and add-on content, subscriptions, mobile games, rentals and social network games in addition to physical sales.