Covid-19: Netflix and Twitter No Match for Gaming as North America Locks Down at Home

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As Week 2 of socially isolating ourselves kicks off, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on how North America spent its initial days in lockdown at home.

It’s not like no one was binge-watching the quite frankly excellent Better Caul Saul on Netflix. (Trust us—get through Season 1 and you’ll be rewarded with something almost as great as Breaking Bad.)

And if you were frantically flipping from Twitter to Facebook to Netflix to reassure yourself that you’re not alone even though you’re kind of alone, well, you probably weren’t totally alone.

But where things really took off was gaming. American tech giant Verizon has reported that it saw a 75 percent increase in gaming during peak hours, with social media use remaining flat. When the world is nothing bad news, it’s better to lose yourself in Call of Duty or, for the realists out there, Plague.

In a statement on the company’s web site, Verizon chief technology officer Kyle Malady said: “As we see more and more individuals work from home and students engage in online learning, it is a natural byproduct that we would see an increase in web traffic and access to VPN. As more entertainment options are cancelled in communities across the US, an increase in video traffic and online gaming is not surprising.”

Verizon stats for week one on the COVID-19 lockdown show gaming was the big winner.

For an idea of how much gaming has benefited from the lockdown, consider that just last month the industry-tracking company NPD Group reported that sales of new games, consoles, and accessories were down by 29 percent in February.

Contrast that stagnation to last week, when a spike in demand meant Microsoft’s Xbox Live crashed for hours on Monday, and Nintendo online services went down Tuesday for nine hours.

As for what we can expect in the coming weeks, consider how gaming and streaming started to do massive numbers in Italy as COVID-19 swept through the country. From the beginning of February to early March, live-streaming on platforms like Twitch and YouTube grew by over 66 percent, with Italian telecommunications titan Telecom Italia seeing a traffic increase of 70 percent.

Mike Usinger once took the better part of two years to finish Grand Theft Auto. Over the course of his career he has written about everything from eSports to music to movies to travel.

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