How the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Impact MMOs (and other games)

The entire world is facing something we’ve never seen before in our lifetimes and never seen before like this in all of history. A virus is sweeping the globe, and while I know that some people prefer to keep real life out of their video games, this one is too big to ignore.

We want to first say that we hope you are all staying safe and healthy. If you have contracted Covid-19, we wish you a speedy recovery, and if you’ve lost someone due to this pandemic, we offer our sincerest condolences. We recognize the scope of this pandemic and we know that our readers have been affected, and that many more may be before this is over.

Know that when we talk about games, it’s not to minimize what is happening in the real world. But we know that for a lot of people, this is an escape. It is a stress-reliever. It is a way to pass the time while you are self-isolating or recovering from illness yourself.

And for Star Wars fans, the Star Wars Universe reminds us that no matter how bleak things look, there is always hope. That when good people come together to do the right thing, we can beat anything that comes at us.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the pandemic and gaming, and also how it may be affecting online play like MMOs. I, for one, am playing more games than I did before. I’ve been so busy with work and life that I couldn’t find the time, but now time is something I seem to have a lot of.

I’ve been getting the urge to play SWTOR more, and I’ve even dug into all the Star Wars games I have on my Steam account… which as you can see, is quite the list.

Some games I am revisiting while self-isolating

This is just part of my Star Wars game collection on Steam and these are all classic, great games worth revisiting.

A person could spend hours lost in all of these games as is, and while I’m typically partial to single-player games these days, I’ve found myself missing MMOs.

Maybe it’s the lack of human interaction that has us reaching out for more, but I even considered reopening my WoW account.

I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. You can ask around any gaming community, and you can also see from the influx of people playing on servers these days. On the surface level, I think it’s safe to say that games are getting a boost from the pandemic. Player numbers and play times are up.

However, that doesn’t come without its downsides, too. There is new strain on game developers as they adjust to have employees working from home for safety and still meet deadlines on launches, patches, extra content and more. These tech savvy industries know better than anyone how to navigate remote work, and they have workarounds for hardware maintenance as well, but expect their could be some delays.

For example, if a server crashed and it could not be reset remotely, there wouldn’t likely already be someone on site to fix the hardware. They’d have to send someone over to the physical location. These things could cause delays in getting a server back up and running.

We may also see delays on new content, patches, or even expansions during this period as well. I think most of us would agree that we want the content to be its best before they launch it and if that means we wait a little while, so be it.

Still, with so many gamers home and blowing through content so quickly, the demand for new content will be high.

Another note to consider, especially about MMOs, is whether or not this pandemic will change the content of the games. While some games will be likely unaffected, there is some content that could be questionable at this time.

For example, SWTOR’s Rakghoul event. Could it be seen in bad taste to put this type of content out when people across the globe are dying from a virus?

Of course, no company wants to look like they are exploiting a global pandemic for personal gain, but if the content was already in the game previously, would it be considered bad taste?

I know I’ve seen the top trending content in my Netflix and Hulu accounts and people are watching Outbreak, Contagion, 28 Days Later, Pandemic, Carriers, The Last Days, and similar movies and shows more than ever before.

In my house, we have family movie nights every Saturday and we had started the newer Planet of the Apes trilogy before this pandemic hit our country hard. We kept watching, although there were a few jokes about the irony.

I think the stats prove that people flock to this type of content out of fascination in times like these. Still, there’s a difference in watching a movie and roleplaying in a video game.

And companies like BioWare need to do their part to show compassion and empathy during what is a very difficult time for all. Maybe it would be best to postpone the Rakghoul event for a later day, when this is all behind us. What do you think?

While many players won’t mind and some might find it enjoyable, there are those who could find it offensive, or even traumatizing to log into the game and see notifications about the event and quests to infect several people with the plague. Since you can’t turn this event info off and just play the game without it, it would ruin the game for those people for the duration of the event.

Not to mention, if people are using their video games to try to escape from the outside world for a bit and de-stress, this is one SWTOR event that would put it front and center in your mind. People don’t want their escapism to hit too close to home (that’s also why we are not doing a bunch of stories on it and we’re trying to keep it to news that pertains to Star Wars games only).

If they did postpone it, they should definitely replace it with some other content and events. People are home and looking to bust that boredom with some fun gaming!

So, let me know in the comments: what are you playing right now? Have you jumped back into anything you’d put aside or started anything new because you’re spending more time at home?

Lisa Clark

Lisa has been an avid gamer since she was old enough to hold her first controller and a game writer for more than a decade. A child of the Nintendo generation, she believes they just don’t make games like they used to but sometimes, they make them even better! While consoles will always be her first love, Lisa spends most of her gaming time on the PC these days- on MMOs and first-person shooters in particular.