Did you rediscover an old game that you haven’t played for ages during the coronavirus pandemic? Or did you once again pick up game controllers you had lying around collecting dust? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you’re not alone.

Research firm Niko Partners recently surveyed more than 1,000 gamers in China to see how they fared during the first three months of the year, which was the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in China. With almost everyone stuck at home, over 90% of respondents said they spent more time playing games. And more than 60% said their partners were also gaming more.

It’s hardly a surprise: Demand for the hit mobile game Honor of Kings was so high that it apparently crashed Tencent’s servers. It also happened with the local version of PUBG Mobile.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a Nintendo Switch game released in March, has proven to be a global hit. (Picture: Animal Crossing/Nintendo)

And the virus isn’t just giving veteran gamers more time to spend on their pastime. Older generations are also getting into gaming for the first time. One in four of those surveyed said their parents started playing games during the lockdown.

Existing gamers are experimenting, too. Three quarters of respondents said they played on a platform they never tried before, which includes first-time PC and mobile gamers. Of those who were already playing on consoles, 95% said they spent more time playing than before.

Many have been turning to games to ease their minds during this stressful time, with about 73% of respondents saying playing helps them cope with anxiety.

And as if perfectly timed, the health crisis saw the emergence of a new blockbuster that seems to be helping people escape from reality: Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The never-ending console game lets players tend gardens and explore the wild on their own virtual island inhabited by animals that talk. It hasn’t been officially released in mainland China, but many players managed to score imported copies from gray market sellers, sending prices soaring before listings were eventually taken down from popular shopping sites.

A PUBG display during the ChinaJoy game convention in Shanghai in August 2018. (Picture: Josh Ye/Abacus)

The PC version of PUBG was another game that became more popular despite not being officially licensed in the mainland. The survey shows that it was the most popular PC game after League of Legends. While the country has its own rebranded, patriotic version of PUBG Mobile, players are accessing the uncensored PC version through the international game store Steam.

With people getting more comfortable playing at home, some say they might just continue to stay put after the pandemic ends. Internet cafes were once popular with gamers looking for a cheap place to chill and hang out with friends, but they’ve been forced to shut due to social distancing requirements. Now more than half of the respondents who used to go said they won’t return to the cafes.