The COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered the lives of millions over the last several months, with various industries and communities feeling its effects. The video game industry has certainly adjusted to fit this new reality, while also showing us that the community has kindness, resilience, and ingenuity in spades.
Major gaming events like E3 and PAX West have been cancelled, big budget AAA games have been delayed several times, and esports tournaments have been delayed or rescheduled. But rather than turn inwards and worry solely about how to save their projects, game developers, esports pros, and indie studios have put forth time and money to help support COVID-19 relief efforts.
Big-name developers are donating funds to coronavirus relief efforts or offering in-game cosmetics for a small donation to organizations. Video games are being used as research tools, and support. The immense processing power of gaming computers are helping fight COVID-19 by running calculations for scientific research.
Many studios are offering their games for free or at extreme discounts to help make our time at home more enjoyable (for the full list of free games, head here (opens in new tab)), while others are giving away free weekends or changing up playlists to keep thins exciting. Seeing how the industry has come together to provide support is heartening and inspiring, and helps the days seem a little less long and the fight against COVID-19 more manageable.
Here are some of the many ways the gaming community has stepped up to help support COVID-19 relief efforts.
Gearbox Software offers Borderlands 3 cosmetic for $5 donation to Direct Relief
Gearbox Software has recently announced a partnership with Direct Relief whereby Borderlands 3 players can buy an in-game cosmetic with a $5 donation to the organization. As we reported (opens in new tab), the in-game cosmetic is the "Antisocial Mask" which is basically just Borderlands' take on the PPE we've all been wearing at the grocery store. All proceeds raised from the mask pack purchases will go directly to providing nurses with PPE and critical care medications. "The project gives millions of video gamers stuck in their homes across the globe a chance to support something important, like ongoing emergency healthcare efforts," reads the official press release.
Bethesda donates $1 million to COVID-19 relief efforts
As we recently reported (opens in new tab), Bethesda is joining the ranks of other video game devs, companies, and community members in the fight against COVID- 19. The publisher behind Fallout and Elder Scrolls is donate $1,000,000 to organizations and charities that are working hard on the front lines. According to Bethesda's official announcement (opens in new tab), $500,000 will go to Direct Relief, a charity that helps provide personal protective equipment to health care workers, $250,000 will go to UNICEF, and $250,000 will go to COVID-19 relief efforts in the community in which Bethesda employees work and live.
Sony's Play at Home Initiative donates $10 million to indie studios and offers Uncharted collection for free
As we recently reported (opens in new tab), Sony's Play at Home Initiative is aimed at helping at-home gamers and indie developers alike. PS4 players can download the Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection and the indie darling Journey for free between April 15 and May 5. Offering up big games like these for free will help those who are sheltering in place keep occupied from the safety of their homes. But the Play at Home Initiative isn't just about free games - Sony has also pledged $10 million to indie studios who have suffered in the face of COVID-19.
Rockstar donates 5% of Red Dead Online and GTA 5 revenue to coronavirus relief funds
Rockstar recently announced that a portion of the company's revenue from April and May will be sent to businesses and communities affected by the coronavirus. As GamesRadar+ reported (opens in new tab), 5% of proceeds generated from in-game purchases in the wildly popular Red Dead Online and GTA Online will be donated. The official statement (opens in new tab) reads, "The Rockstar Games community is at the center of everything we do. We love seeing players immersed in exploration of our virtual worlds and connecting with each other through them. As our teams navigate these difficult times, we see our local communities across North America, the UK, India and beyond being deeply affected. Small businesses have closed their doors, and communities who rely on government-provided support that they cannot access are struggling. The road ahead will be challenging, and we want to help where we can."
Sony announces $100 million COVID-19 global relief fund
Sony is setting up a $100 million global relief fund (opens in new tab) to assist in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The company says the funds will be allotted to three distinct efforts: "assistance for those individuals engaged in frontline medical and first responder efforts to fight the virus, support for children and educators who must now work remotely, and support for members of the creative community in the entertainment industry." Donations include $10 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, run by the World Health Organization.
Master Chief voice actor donates Cameo money to Project C.U.R.E.
pic.twitter.com/OThPMiGPIPMarch 31, 2020
As we recently reported (opens in new tab), Steve Downes, the voice of Spartan Sierra 117 AKA Master Chief AKA gaming legend, is getting involved in COVID-19 relief. The voice actor is a part of the website Cameo, which gives fans the chance to pay celebrities to record personalized video messages for them. It's a great gift, or in some cases, a great way to break up with somebody. Downes is donating all April proceeds from his Cameo account medical relief charity Project C.U.R.E.
343 Industries has raised over $400,000
Halo Infinite (opens in new tab) studio 343 Industries has been selling special-edition shirts and directing proceeds toward GlobalGiving (opens in new tab)'s Coronavirus Relief Fund. The shirt isn't available anymore, but the studio announced on May 4 that their efforts raised $430,000 from the Halo community.
Game studios join the Humble Conquer COVID-19 Bundle
Humble Bundle has created a special Conquer COVID-19 bundle that includes games and DRM-free e-books, with 100% of the proceeds going to charities that support coronavirus relief. Game studios like THQ Nordic have donated their IPs to the bundle, including Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition, and This Is the Police. There's also indie darling Underdale, from Toby Fox, and Subset Games' Into The Breach, among others. The bundle has over $1000 worth of games for only $30, and it's only available for a week. Get it here (opens in new tab).
Ubisoft donates $150,000 to WHO COVID-19 relief
The company behind Assassin's Creed Origins and Ghost Recon Breakpoint donated $150,000 to the WHO COVID-19 relief fund as part of Twitch Stream Aid (opens in new tab). The stream ran on March 28 from and gathered together people from gaming, music, and sports to raise funds for the COVID-19 Solitary Response Fund for the World Heath Organization. Twitch Stream Aid raise $2.8 million for the fund.
Razer gives away one million surgical masks
According to Kotaku (opens in new tab), gaming hardware company Razer has pledged to make and distribute one million surgical masks. On March 19, CEO Min-Liang Tan took to Twitter (opens in new tab) to inform the community that Razer engineers and designers were repurposing a portion of existing manufacturing lines so that they could produce masks instead of hardware. The company will then distribute the masks to countries where they're needed most.
CD Projekt Red donates almost $1 million to Polish healthcare charity
Everyone's favorite Polish developer CD Projekt Red donated four million Polish zloty (just under $1 million USD) to a non-profit organization helping with COVID-19 relief in Poland. As GR+ reported, (opens in new tab) the Fundacja Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy (or, the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity) recently pledged to provide 150 intensive care unit beds and 50,000 sets of personal protection equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers whose patients have contracted the virus. Half of the money CD Projekt Red donated was from the company itself, while the other half came from the board of directors and major shareholders.
Riot Games donates $1.5 million for coronavirus relief in Los Angeles
The studio and its co-founders, Brandon Beck and Marc Merill, donated $1.5 million to help aid coronavirus relief in the L.A area. According to The Wrap, the studio donated $500,000 while Beck and Merrill gave $500,000 each, with $400,000 going to the Los Angeles Food Bank, and $200,000 going to the Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles (which helps cover health care costs, childcare, and meals for the elderly, and gives grants to residents in need. The rest of the money will be given to non-profits in the Los Angeles metro area.
Nvidia puts its processing power to good use
When COVID-19 first hit the United States back in mid-March, Nvidia called on PC gamers to download the Folding@home application. As GR+ previously reported (opens in new tab), the app uses spare clock cycles to distribute processing power in order to help scientists work through huge computing tasks. Though the app has been around for years, it's now got a ton of new projects that are trying to isolate potentially treatable protein targets from the virus that causes COVID-19.
Nintendo gives 9,500 masks to the state of Washington
On March 25, Polygon reported (opens in new tab) that Nintendo of America had donated nearly a thousand N-95 respirator masks to the state of Washington, which was hit hard by the coronavirus. The masks went to Eastside Fire & Rescue, which distributed the masks throughout the region based on need, as well as in the city of North Bend, which is near the Nintendo of America distribution center.
The University of Washington develops a game to help find coronavirus medication
Foldit, which can be found on the FreeThink website (opens in new tab), is a protein folding game that will help find the right combination to protect cells from the proteins in coronavirus that are attacking respiratory systems. As we previously reported, the game was designed by the University of Washington's Institute for Protein Design, and it "tasks players with solving puzzles by creating a protein structure that can interact with another protein in a given way." There are a lot of possible combinations in a given protein, so the more people working on it, the merrier.
Ninja donates $150,000 to Feeding America
Mixer streamer and esport legend Tyler "Ninja" Blevins and his wife, Jessica, donated $150,000 to hunger-relief charity Feeding America, reports Gamesindustry (opens in new tab). The charity supports vulnerable people by providing meals to those who need it most through their nationwide web of food banks. In the face of the coronavirus, food banks are an important source of nutrients for those who are already suffering.
New Halo 5 pack will donate all proceeds to coronavirus relief charity
Halo 5 recently announced a new REQ pack called 'Relief and Recovery,' the proceeds of which will go to Global Giving's Coronavirus Relief Fund. As GR+ previously reported (opens in new tab), Microsoft will donate all of the money obtained from purchases of the $10 pack from now until April 30 to the organization, which helps stop the spread of the virus and supports at-risk communities.
Plague Inc. developer donates $250,000 to WHO and CEPI
Plague Inc. developer Ndemic Creations donated (opens in new tab) $250,000 to the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. "Eight years ago, I never imagined the real world would come to resemble a game of Plague Inc., or that so many players would be using Plague Inc. to help them get through an actual pandemic," says game creator James Vaughan, "We are proud to be able to help support the vital work of the WHO and CEPI as they work towards finding a vaccine for COVID-19."
Games Done Quick sets up online marathon with 100% of donations going to Direct Relief
Games Done Quick, the organization that speedruns to raise money for charity, had to push back its Summer Games Done Quick in Bloomington, Minnesota this August, due to the spread of COVID-19. According to an official statement (opens in new tab), however, GDQ will hold an online marathon called Corona Relief Done Quick from April 17 to April 19, with 100% of donations going to Direct Relief, a humanitarian organization that helps those in poverty or affected by emergencies.
Esports betting site Luckbox pledges to donate revenue from WeSave Charity Play DOTA 2 tournament
According to Gameindustry (opens in new tab), the popular esports betting site Luckbox pledged to support the WeSave Charity Play DOTA 2 tournament by donating all revenue made from bets placed on matches. The tournament, which was raising money for both CEPI and GlobalGiving, had raised 90% of its 200,000 target just two days before the end of the event's run.
There you have it, folks, a beautiful collection of hopeful glimmers provided by the gaming industry and community during a global crisis. We'll keep updating this story with other tales of innovation, dedication, and philanthropy as we hear of them. What a lovely little world we're a part of, huh?
Also, there's a lot of games that have gone free in the face of coronavirus. Here's the best free games you can play right now (opens in new tab).