New global data from Nielsen shows that people are using free-to-play digital games like Fortnite, Call of Duty and Animal Crossing as more than just a means of playing games. Increasingly, the platforms are serving as virtual hang-outs for online “gatherings.” And Nielsen says this trend won’t suddenly reverse once real-world events become safer, either.

Mediabrands shop UM has done a lot of work on evaluating how to integrate brands on emerging platforms, including Animal Crossing as well as more conventional video chat platforms, like HouseParty. In its whitepaper on Animal Crossing, the agency writes,  “Animal Crossing presents an opportunity to connect with people during a time when they can’t be together physically. People are finding themselves online in order to ‘be’ with others, and gaming has facilitated a low barrier social connection during the lockdown.”

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