by Crystal Mills via Benzinga

As quarantine continues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are diving into video games in order to stay busy.

With movies, television, and sports leagues falling behind with postponed events and premieres, gaming has remained resilient.

Sports leagues such as the NBA, NHL, NASCAR, and Formula One have all transitioned into esports in order to help fill the void left by event cancellations. The number of viewers have skyrocketed, and so has the number of players.

Steam User Numbers Grow By Millions

The number of concurrent players on Steam skyrocketed in March. More than 20.3 million people were using the service. Out of these, 6.2 million were actively playing games.

Valve’s “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” was one of the titles to hit record numbers. The game hit 1 million players — the first time the game hit this record since its launch. Steam beat its own record just a week later, reaching a concurrent user number of 22.6 million.

“Steam just achieved a new peak concurrent user record of 22 million, one day after reaching 21 million and six days after reaching 20 million,” Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad said on Twitter.

“Global lockdowns and self-isolation due to COVID-19 has led to at-home gaming becoming a safe form of entertainment to pass the time.”

The numbers have continued to rise.

Xbox, PlayStation, Niantic React To Higher Traffic, Pandemic

The surge of players didn’t just affect PC services. Microsoft’s MSFT 0.01% Xbox Live suffered downtime due to an increased number of users.

“Usage is up on almost everything. Thanks go out to all the Ops/IT teams at all the companies that are working hard to keep everything running smoothly with all going on around them,” Xbox boss Phil Spencer said in a tweet.

Sony Interactive Entertainment SNE 0.79% also had to make changes due to a large influx of use on PlayStation. The company began slowing download speeds in an attempt to preserve bandwidth. New releases like “Final Fantasy VII Remake” have been unlocked for download as much as a week before their release date.

Niantic’s “Pokemon GO” has also made changes to help prioritize “features and experiences that can be enjoyed in individual settings.”

Trainers can see more Pokemon nearby to prevent the need to travel, and items like incense packs are available at a 99% discount. Incubators, which normally are powered by the number of steps a trainer takes, are now more effective.

“Trainers can hatch Eggs twice as fast,” Niantic told Polygon. With settings being revamped to encourage solo play, Niantic said it hopes to continue providing an accessible experience that promotes safety.

“While we’ve made these updates based on the current global health situation, we also encourage players to make decisions on where to go and what to do that are in the best interest of their health and the health of their communities.”

Gaming To Flatten The Curve

More companies are promoting gaming in order to encourage people to stay home. Amazon’s AMZN 0.01% Twitch livestreaming service and Activision Blizzard ATVI 1% are joining forces in a campaign called #PlayApartTogether.

“It’s never been more critical to ensure people stay safely connected to one another. Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose and meaning. We are proud to participate in such a worthwhile and necessary initiative,” Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in a press release.

Even the World Health Organization, which classifies game addiction as a disease, is promoting gaming as a safe form of entertainment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ray Chambers, the WHO ambassador for global strategy, said he hopes the gaming industry can “reach millions with important messages to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The need for at-home entertainment has attracted a surge of new gamers and players who haven’t touched a controller in years.

Consoles like the Nintendo (OTCPK: NTDOY) Switch have been selling out at major retailers like Best Buy BBY 2.37%, GameStop GME 14.39% and Walmart WMT 0.04%.

Third-party prices have skyrocketed on sites like eBay Inc EBAY 2.48% and Amazon. For those who were lucky enough to buy one, the Switch has been a vital resource during quarantine.

Anna Thomason, a Tennessee resident, is a self-titled casual gamer who lost the time to dive into gaming due to her college and work schedule.

Since the pandemic began, Thomason said she has been using video games to stay connected with friends.

“Most of my life I’ve played on a PC or handheld. I don’t have the patience to build a good PC rig and I’m not about to buy one. Plus my friends have [Nintendo Switches], so I bought the Switch Lite to get back into gaming and hang out with my friends since it’s not safe to see them right now.”

Coronavirus may have crippled traditional avenues of entertainment, but video games appear to be immune.

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