COVID-19: Video game spending jumps 35% in March 2020

"Animal Crossing: New Horizons" has reportedly enjoyed the strongest-ever debut for a Nintendo Switch title.

Sales of "Animal Crossing: New Horizons," gamepads, and headsets helped set new record highs in the USA as communities adopted social distancing practices.

The video game industry saw a sharp rise in spending in March 2020, according to figures from NPD Group, which tracks physical retail sales and a subset of digital downloads in the USA.

"Animal Crossing: New Horizons" for the Nintendo Switch was the month's best-selling game.

Debuting on March 20, by the end of the month it achieved the country's third-highest launch month for a Nintendo-published game in terms of physical dollar and unit sales.

Only "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" (Dec 2018) and "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" (2008) accumulated greater first-month sales, said NPD.

It also exceeded the lifetime sales of all other Animal Crossing franchise games combined in the less than two weeks between launch and the end of the month.

March's second-best selling game was "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare," released October 2019.

It became NPD's best-selling game over 2020's first three months.

(For context, free console and computer spin-off "Call of Duty: Warzone" launched on March 10. It shares its season pass with "Modern Warfare".)

Third on the list was "MLB The Show 20." Like "Animal Crossing: New Horizons," it was exclusive to a specific console, in this case the PlayStation 4.

Total video game spending for March 2020 amounted to $739m USD, a 34% increase on March 2019.

Console purchases, game controllers and headsets brought the sector as a whole to $1.6 billion USD for a year-on-year increase of 35%.

NPD analyst Mat Piscatella made direct connections to COVID-19 measures.

"As communities have practiced social distancing and observed stay at home orders across the United States over the past weeks, many people have turned to video games as a means of finding connections," he noted.

"Whether together on the couch playing locally, or playing online, gaming has generated increased engagement, which has resulted in corresponding increases in consumer spend."