2020 was the year for gamers.

While countless other industries have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the video game industry saw a rapid rise with so many people stuck at home having more free time than ever to play video games.

The industry hit a massive $179.9 billion in worldwide revenue in 2020, with $87.7 billion of those sales contributed by the mobile phone gaming market, which saw a 24 percent increase from last year. Consoles and PC gaming followed behind at $52.5 billion and $39.5 billion, both recording a 24 percent and 20 percent increase over the past year respectively.

Bennett Bellot, an Animation & Visual Effects professor at Chapman University contributed the growth to how accessible video games have become to everyone.

“Since almost everyone has a laptop, cell phone, or iPad they can play pretty much anywhere and could mentally and emotionally escape from the confines of the covid lockdown,” said Bellot.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitch stream of Among Us was one of the platform’s most-viewed streams of all time.

With everyone facing limited social interaction due to social distancing and stay at home orders, it’s not a coincidence that games like Animal Crossing and Among Us, which can be played with others became the years most talked about games. Many people turned to video games to connect and have fun with friends and family during the lockdowns.

Last March when the coronavirus outbreak hit in full force, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing quickly rose to the top of the sales charts, selling 5 million units during the month and breaking a console record previously held by Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Though Among Us has been around since 2018, discord servers and game streams on platforms like Twitch allowed the game to surge in popularity this year. In the third quarter of this year, the analytics firm reported that the game increased its monthly active users all over the world, and in the United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, Indonesia and Brazil, the game was among the top five most downloaded.

“The game’s accessibility and usefulness as a venue for social hangouts meant that by October it had by far the highest monthly user total of any game in history,” says Carter Rogers, principal analyst at Nielsen’s SuperData.

Hollywood stars brought even more attention to the gaming industry by joining in on the trends. High profile celebrities such as Brie Larson, Chrissy Teigen, Danny Trejo, Elijah Wood, Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams and rapper T-Pain all posted about their love of Animal Crossing to their millions of followers on social media.

Joe Biden’s virtual island on Animal Crossing where players could visit to learn about his campaign.

Animal Crossing even attracted the attention of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, which offered Biden-Harris merchandise for people who visited their virtual island on the game. Other political figures had people talking about these games, such as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who attracted 400,000 viewers to her Twitch live stream of Among Us.

2020 also marked the massive launch of two highly anticipated gaming consoles, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PlayStation 5. According to NPD Group, PS5 had the biggest launch for any hardware platform ever.

Gaming, which was once perceived as only a niche medium has officially gone mainstream. With four out of every five U.S. consumers having played a video game in the past six months, opportunities are growing in the gaming industry.

And Chapman students are prepared to take advantage of it.

“Several of my Film and Animation students are using this time to learn Unreal Engine Technology. This is because the Game Engine is being used for “Virtual Production” on shows like The Mandalorian and Star Trek Discovery,” said Bellot.

Bellot also taught an Unreal Class for Film Students during the Winter Interterm, further preparing them for careers in this industry.

On set of The Mandalorian, which was created using Unreal Engine and immersive LED screens.

Additionally, an LED stage is being set up for Animation & Visual Effects students in the Digital Media Arts Center, Chapman’s 18,000 square-foot industry standard studio. 

With the industry peaking during the coronavirus pandemic, many are wondering if it will continue in the future as more and more vaccines roll out. As people begin to go out and socialize again in person, it’s likely the amount of time spent playing video games will decrease. On the other hand, so many people picked up gaming during quarantine, and are likely to continue sinking dollars into their new hobby.

Either way, it’s safe to say the gaming industry is here to stay.

“We’ll definitely see less “game time” as people will go out and socialize again in person. I expect restaurants, block parties, and theme parks filled to capacity to be very common from 2021 to 2022… but the game industry will survive,” said Bellot.