South Korea’s COVID-19 Response Mitigates PC Gaming

LOS ANGELES (May 19, 2020) – Interpret’s monthly tracking of the South Korean PC gaming café market has revealed a stabilization after the industry saw a 25% decline in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Interpret’s data shows that total average daily PC gaming hours played at cafés in South Korea fell from 5.65 million in February to 4.38 million in March, directly coinciding with the peak of coronavirus cases in the nation. April told a different story, however, as the daily gaming hours at PC cafés were almost flat with March at 4.21 million while South Korea’s confirmed COVID-19 monthly cases fell sharply. South Korea’s proactive measures to contain the outbreak were universally praised, and the country’s quick response might have saved the popular PC gaming café industry.

Interpret estimates that average daily hours played at cafés in May will rebound from April, as our first-week data already shows a 9% increase in time spent.

“While South Korea’s PC café market fell from its pre-COVID level, the impact could have been far worse, especially in contrast to the outcome with PC gaming cafés in America, which are seeing zero business due to shelter-in-place restrictions,” said Jesse Divnich, Interpret’s VP of Research and Strategy. “A 25% haircut during a global pandemic is actually fairly encouraging, and data is already pointing to signs of recovery for South Korea’s PC café market.”

Corresponding data on both assembled PC sales and computer parts leads Interpret to believe that what we’re seeing is indeed the “new normal.” Gamers in South Korea who avoided playing in cafés seemingly purchased or built their own gaming rigs to play at home.

According to Danawa, a leader of online shopping services in the country, unit sales of assembled PCs jumped nearly 20% in Q1 2020. Additionally, when looking at year-over-year results in April, parts used to build PCs saw sales rise across the board, from 26% for keyboards to 34% for CPUs to 49% for RAM. Correlation should not be confused with causation but Interpret suspects former PC café patrons were just as engaged with their favorite games from the comfort of their homes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far reaching consequences for gaming companies across the globe.  PC café market traffic is one of the first sets of activities in gaming that we can measure directly pre- and post-COVID. Interpret will continue to monitor the impact of the coronavirus throughout the industry, as there are likely to be more “new normals” to discover in the coming weeks.

Media Contact

Jesse Divnich, VP of Research and Strategy

About Interpret

Interpret is a global consumer insights agency designed to help companies at the intersection of media, technology, and entertainment navigate the future. We use quantitative and qualitative research to provide deeper insight into why consumers behave the way they do. We then can integrate our primary research with our clients’ behavioral data to gain comprehensive insight – the ideal combination of representative quant and insightful qual. Interpret is headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices in Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, New York, London and China.

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