Dealing with Crises During The Crisis Is a Part Of New Normal
Sony, EA, and Activision were among companies to postpone marketing events and product release efforts in light of the current protests against police brutality and racism in the United States. The current situation is a stark reminder that just because there is a COVID-19 crisis out there, it doesn’t mean that other world problems are on hold in the meantime.
Normally, when unexpected disruptions occur in a familiar environment, we try to make sense of things and orientate ourselves with the help of references and anchor points to the familiar.
But how do you react to disruptions that happen in a completely uncharted territory (in this case, the aftermath of a global pandemic)?
For the past few months, these companies and many others were scrambling to adjust to the newly emerging dynamics of social distancing and virtual events. The last thing they were planning for were consumers walking onto the streets for a cause that rightly drives infinitely more attention than a games release ever could.
Whether for moral, political or commercial reasons, the acknowledgement of the issue by the games industry and the subsequent postponement makes sense.
The delays, however, also illustrate a broader issue emerging in the short to midterm. If the COVID-19 crisis and the oncoming recession turn out to be a matter of years rather than months, then dealing with ad hoc local crises during the ongoing global crisis will become the new normal.
Many more disruptive incidents around the world will occur before we are ‘back to normal’ from the COVID-19 induced recession. Just before the winter holiday season, we will have the hurricane season on the west; the markets will see results from companies for the period most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis; the US presidential election and final campaigning will take place – and those are just a few events we know of!
Each individual incident might not affect the games industry as a whole, but the cumulation of disruptive events over time could impact the current landscape negatively.
Delays to sales and marketing cycles of those games companies do not just impact the companies in question, but the whole media and entertainment value chains. A potential delay to the PS5 release could affect plans and budgeting for the wider developer and publisher communities and open up a market share opportunity for competitors.
EA’s delay of Madden NFL risks delivering less value for the league (and vice versa), precisely in times where sports brands need a boost the most. And so on.
During these uncertain times games companies will need to find their most agile selves. Navigating how to respond to a plethora of crises within an already disrupted environment sensibly and sensitively, will become a vital skill for games companies in the short to mid-term.