With more time spent lounging around the house than ever before, video games have exploded in popularity, from epic fantasy RPGs to adrenaline-fuelled shooters and family-friendly favourites to sports simulators for those missing the real thing.
And with the next generation of gaming consoles, including the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, set to launch later this year, there’s never been a better time to step into the virtual world.
But which games have seen the biggest increase in popularity since we entered lockdown? And which are favourites around the world?
Which games have increased in popularity since lockdown?
To figure out which games we’ve been picking up in the last few months, we calculated the increase in Google searches for some of the most popular games since lockdown began.
1. iRacing (PC) – 242% increase
Top of the list is a game which might not be a household name but has seen a huge increase in players over the last couple of months. iRacing is a racing simulation game which has been around for over a decade but has seen its popularity really take off since lockdown, with real-life drivers from Formula 1 and NASCAR using it to stage virtual championships. The game has had over 60,000 new subscriptions in the last two months, which is the most it’s had in a year since it launched.
2. Terraria (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PS Vita, 3DS) – 173% increase
In second place is Terraria, another game that’s been around for some time. While this sandbox game has been hugely popular ever since it launched, thousands of gamers have been picking back up since lockdown due to the release of the game’s final major update ‘Journey’s End’. The game’s developers now say it is finally complete, nine years after it launched.
3. NBA 2K20 (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) – 86% increase
Sports games have proved as popular as ever during the lockdown, as sports fans try to fill the gap left by the lack of live action. In particular, the basketball sim NBA 2K20 has seen a big increase in popularity, in no small part due to the fact that its developers made the savvy move of reducing it to the bargain price of just £2.49 in May. Many developers have drastically reduced prices or made games free to play to try and keep us all gaming during the lockdown.
Each country’s favourite video game
Next, we took a look at which games received the most Google searches on average in each country during March and April, to see which has been each nation’s favourite game during lockdown.
Europe’s favourite video games
The picture in Europe is mixed. Roblox takes the top spot in many countries, but other titles such as Fortnite, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and VALORANT, which only launched fully in early June, are also proving popular.
Asia’s favourite video games
Asia’s favourite lockdown game seems to be a pretty even split between Minecraft, Roblox and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (also known as PUBG), which has a large base of gamers in the region.
Africa’s favourite video games
Fortnite is hugely popular around the world, but it’s the game of choice in Africa, coming out as the favourite in the majority of countries. A few countries also favour the two major football games: FIFA 20 and eFootball PES 2020.
South America’s favourite video games
In South America, every country with available search data preferred Roblox, the popular platform which allows users to create their own games and play games made by others.
North America’s favourite video games
And it was a similar situation in North and Central America and the Caribbean, where Roblox is the overwhelming favourite.
Oceania’s favourite video games
Finally, Roblox is also the favourite in Australia and New Zealand, with other games such as Minecraft, Fortnite and PUBG proving popular in other parts of the region.
Increased in popularity: We used Google Trends, which gives a normalised search interest score over a given period. We took an average of the search interest from January until 23 March 2020 (the date the UK entered lockdown) and then an average from this date until the present day, 5 June 2020, and calculated the increase between the two.
We excluded any games which launched after the lockdown was imposed, as these had a disproportionately high increase in searches.
Each country’s favourite game: We used Google Keyword Planner to find the number of average monthly searches for each game during the months of March and April.