Games – let’s embrace the nation’s comfort blanket

Exient coo, Nusrat Shah, on why heritage IP has a unique opportunity to provide gamers with refuge, comfort and certainty.

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and, for those of us who work in games, it has been no different.

But at the same time, it’s been great to see the positive impact games have had on the nation’s wellbeing, both during the height of lockdown and also now as some COVID-19 restrictions are being eased.

We noticed it anecdotally at first – I started playing more games (in addition to watching more films and TV shows). Then family members and friends started admitting the same.

Then we began to see some empirical evidence of the trend. A study of 3,000 pop culture fans based in the UK, carried out by the folks at pop culture agency Experience12, found that 97% of respondents claim that video games benefit their mental health.

What’s more, 64% said that connecting with others via online or multiplayer games had helped alleviate feelings of isolation, and 33% said that they have been playing games for over 20 hours a week during lockdown.

Before lockdown? Only 14% said that they were spending that amount of time playing.

And we’ve seen that trend borne out in our own analytics, with both downloads and playing time for our mobile version of the all-time classic Lemmings going through the roof.

Now, clearly, we’re talking about a small sample size in terms of timescales under somewhat extreme circumstances. But I think it’s clear that there’s huge levels of latent demand for games.

We kind of already knew this pre-lockdown, which was why we jumped at the chance to take Lemmings to mobile. Because, as we get older, have a career and maybe a family, the time we spend playing console or PC games tends to diminish.

Luckily, mobile has stepped in to offer people like me that ‘quick fix’ in moments of downtime.

Moreover, an IP like Lemmings resonates with people in their 30s and 40s, who probably have hectic lives, so our goal was to give them some nostalgic enjoyment, while also introducing the brand to new audiences.

When something like a global pandemic comes along, those trends are amplified as we all suddenly have a lot more time on our hands.

And here’s where the opportunity lies in mobile games for owners of what we call ‘heritage’ IP – there’s a sizeable segment of the population that has a) rediscovered the joys of playing games over lockdown, and b) will gravitate towards nostalgic brands from the ‘80s or ‘90s, both within video games and in the general entertainment space.

Buoyed by our experiences with Lemmings, we’ve now created our own publishing arm, Exient Publishing, with a pipeline of self-funded projects for 2021 based on really exciting IPs. And we’re keen to work with more IP holders and brands interested in taking their properties to mobile platforms.

Games have already provided refuge, comfort and certainty to people in tricky times – it would be amazing to give a newly re-engaged nation of lapsed gamers some awesome new, nostalgic mobile experiences.

Nusrat Shah is coo of Exient Publishing. You can find out more about the company by clicking here.

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