Amazon, Facebook, Google eyeing to grab more of gaming market avid COVID-19

The gaming industry is a natural to promote social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Video game and technology companies are, in fact, working directly with the World Health Organization on a campaign to keep people apart. And technology giants that are relatively new to the video game business, Facebook and Google, are making moves that show it may be wise for them to use this opportunity with so many people at home to grab more share of the gaming market.

Facebook Gaming released a new feature this week that allows users to create tournaments with friends and the general public, playing each other — from home — in games like “Fortnite” and Activision Blizzard’s “Call of Duty: Warzone.”

Originally created for esports gaming, the feature, which works similar to creating an event on Facebook, lets users design tournaments that update brackets and leaderboards and raise money for charitable causes, like COVID-19 relief.

The idea is good for Facebook and its consumers, according to Laurel Walzak, a professor at Ryerson University who specializes in gaming. “Facebook is providing their audience with an opportunity to engage with each other,” while the social media giant is also creating “more loyalty to the brand.”

Alphabet’s Google, meanwhile, announced on Wednesday it is offering consumers two free months of its higher-end Stadia Pro gaming service, providing access to nine games, including the cult hit Destiny 2. Google launched Stadia last November, to mixed reviews.

Free to play now

“If gaming companies are going to provide people with free trials, they are going to integrate them into these services, which helps them build relationships with customers,” Walzak said. “Not just people who are interested in it. But people who are looking for different forms of entertainment to participate in.”

Amazon, which owns Twitch, the most popular site for the livestreaming of gamers, is offering Amazon Prime subscribers and Twitch users five free games that are collectively worth more than $100, until May 1. The games include “Turok,” a remastered version of the 1990s shooting game, and “Earthlock,” an indie role-playing game. Twitch has seen its usage surge during the coronavirus and as stay-at-home orders around the U.S. have increased.

“It is an opportunity for gaming companies to put their brands in front of more people,” said media and streaming analyst Dan Rayburn. “The idea that they are giving away services, so consumers can see what these are like, hopefully will lead to a conversion in new subscribers or customers.”

Verizon has reported huge increases in gaming usage, as high as 75%, since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. 

In Italy a major telecom company reported a struggle to keep up with a 70% spike on its network and cited Fortnite playing as a primary cause.