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Coronavirus Outbreak Causing Unexpected Growth in Games, Video App Downloads in China

Illustrative image of Plague Inc, a strategy simulation game that lets players infect the world . (Photo: Reuters)

Illustrative image of Plague Inc, a strategy simulation game that lets players infect the world . (Photo: Reuters)

The prospect of being stuck in quarantine is leading to games and video streaming apps being one of the very few to benefit from Coronavirus, as per Reuters.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: February 4, 2020, 4:07 PM IST

Online games and short video apps have been among the few beneficiaries of China’s virus outbreak, raking in millions of views and downloads as people stuck in self-quarantine at home seek entertainment and ways to beguile their time. The shift has even drawn companies more used to doing business in showrooms, such as carmakers Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, to promote products heavily online during the week.

Chinese travel and gather with family and friends during the traditional Lunar New Year holiday, but many postponed or cancelled their plans over concerns sparked in mid-January about the spread of a new virus that has killed 420. “I only use my mobile phone for three hours a day at work, but at least eight hours every day during the Spring Festival, because it’s so boring,” Lu Zhang, a junior high school teacher in eastern Shandong province, said of the enforced holiday.

Investors have seized on the trend, with shares of Chinese game publishers, such as Tencent, rising 2% in Hong Kong on Tuesday, outstripping a rise of 1% in the benchmark, while in New York, NetEase rose nearly 3%. U.S.-listed shares in Chinese video platform Bilibili rose almost 7%, while shares of search engine Baidu and e-commerce giant Alibaba also rose. Five mobile game developers, including Ourpalm, surged by the maximum allowed 10% on Tuesday.

Weekly downloads jumped 77% on ByteDance’s Xigua video app from Jan. 20 to Jan. 26, after it announced plans to stream the premiere of a movie, “Lost in Russia” for free, data from performance tracker App Annie showed. “My screen time yesterday exceeded 10 hours,” one Shanghai resident, identified only as Wang, said in a social media post, adding, “What do you all suggest I do other than look at my cellphone?” Also popular are health and fitness apps, such as Keep, which livestreams fitness classes. Its revenue surged 15% for the week, while healthcare app Pingan Good Doctor saw downloads jump 1,186%.

“We believe that China internet and logistics companies are somewhat sheltered,” from the impact of the virus outbreak, analysts from Bernstein Research wrote in a Monday note, amid a growing trend for all products and services to move online. Tencent’s blockbuster mobile game, “Honour of Kings” made up to 2 billion yuan ($286 million) on the Jan. 24 eve of the holiday, estimated Pei Pei, an analyst with Sinolink Securities Co, exceeding all the Chinese mobile games on Apple’s app store during the entire week-long break in 2018. Tencent declined to comment.

Strategy simulation app “Plague Inc.”, which jumped to the top of the charts in Apple’s app store, retained its popularity. The game, which allows users to create and evolve a pathogen to destroy the world, generated 78,000 downloads in January, up from 16,000 in December, according to Sensor Tower. “Many students play games during the Spring Festival,” said the junior high teacher, Lu, adding that she spent more than five hours each day playing poker, among other games. “Sometimes they invite me to join when they see me online.” U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc, which started delivery in December of cars built at its $2-billion Shanghai plant, stepped up daily livestreamed sales events on video app Douyin to highlight features of its vehicles.

Several sales dealers for Mercedes Benz also took to the WeChat app with a link to a 360-degree interior view of its GLB compact SUV, simulating the passenger experience and offering close-ups of the seats’ leather stitching details and dashboard. “Not leaving home, so use virtual reality to look at cars!” one of the representatives exhorted viewers.

Categories
Tech

Coronavirus Affects Tech Supply Chains as Korea Feels the Heat

The new coronavirus-triggered angst appears to be spilling over to the Korean corporate realm as the global supply chain is feared to face some disruptions, industry watchers said Sunday. With the new coronavirus killing more than 300 people in China so far, Beijing recently decided to extend its Lunar New Year’s holiday in some areas of the country in what could be a move that can disturb the normal operations of South Korean firms with manufacturing bases there, Yonhap news agency reported.

The extension of the holiday that originally started January 25 was earlier announced only in Hubei province in central China, where Wuhan, the epicentre of the new virus, is located but was later expanded to other areas as the number of patients skyrocketed at an alarming pace. South Korea’s exports are poised to face a setback should the spread of the virus not be contained soon, industry watchers said, as local firms with production facilities in China have been suspending or scaling back their operations in the world’s No. 2 economy.

South Korea’s top tech giant Samsung Electronics Co. decided to shut down the operations of its home appliances production line in Suzhou, eastern China, until next week in tune with the extended holiday. LG Electronics Inc. and SK Innovation Co. also plan to put off the reopening of their Chinese production line until the end of next week. LG Chem Ltd. said it has sharply lowered the operational level of its battery line in China as well. Korean chipmakers and display makers, on the other hand, have been maintaining the routine operation over the holiday, although LG Display Co. said it is considering closing down its facilities depending on the development of the issue.

“We already secured enough inventory in preparation for the Chinese New Year’s holiday, but it is inevitable for us to face troubles if the situation is drawn out over a long period,” a SK Innovation official said. Chipmaker SK hynix Inc. said South Korean firms will eventually face some disruptions in their operations and production if the issue is protracted. Industry watchers said the rapid spread of the new coronavirus has already prodded South Korean carmakers to scale down their production as the supply of some auto parts has been disrupted by the spread of the new virus.

SsangYong Motor Co. earlier said it will suspend the production of its plant in South Korea through February 12 amid a delay in the supply of wiring harnesses, a part used to supply power in an automobile. South Korean carmakers depend heavily on China for the supply of parts. “As many auto parts makers have relocated to China to cut costs, it will not be easy for them to return home,” said Lee Hang-koo, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade.

Numerous South Korean firms, including Samsung Electronics, have kicked off task force teams, but the companies are likely to continue to face uncertainties as the new coronavirus situation is changing every minute, industry watchers added.

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