With the cancellation of all live sporting events due to the coronavirus pandemic, eSports organizers are adopting an online only approach to video game tournaments. This isn’t hard, of course, because unlike traditional sports, professional video game tournaments can be played online and don’t require participants and fans to be in a single, physical location.
Impact of COVID-19 on eSports
While the economical impact of this change is likely to be felt across the board, it will be interesting to see what impact removing physical venues from tournament play will have on the success of the events. It could potentially lead to venues finding new and better ways to conduct business if the automated/online only model is adopted. For example, some leagues still have manual processes in place to calculate player scores across mobile, console and PC platforms.
We may also see an uptick in real money skill games, which includes Daily Fantasy Sports, Standard eSports Betting, Skin Betting and eSports Competitions. A number of major sports betting sites now offer eSports alongside traditional sports betting, making the United States the second largest eSports betting market in the world. In 2019, total wagers involving eSports approached $8 billion dollars and this figure is set to reach close to $13 billion in the near future. You can find these stats along with a list of legal eSports betting sites in the U.S. here. And they’e getting creative these days! With fewer professional sporting events to bet on, they’re taking bets on everything from political debates to professional darts, German soccer, the Kontinental Hockey League and New Zealand cricket.
Investment Opportunity in eSports Betting
We see this sector as a tremendous investment opportunity and would like to hear from innovative companies that are making tools and technologies to advance eSports, and to leverage the massive audience of casual gamers who are interested in eSports betting.
Adapting in Uncertain Times
Here’s how some of the eSports venues and organizers are adapting to the global call for social distancing:
– Blizzard’s Overwatch League set a new online-only schedule for the Spring and will broadcast its recently cancelled and upcoming matches live on YouTube, where it has been available all season.
– High Score eSports venue in Detroit offers its community advice on how gamers can hone their skills during this time. “Luckily for us gamers, we live in a time when playing games at home is easier, and better, than ever. Online play will let you keep testing your skills in the FGC, and while it isn’t the perfect replacement of actually sitting next to your opponent, it’s better than nothing, right? More than that, there are so many options on how to get new games!”
– Season 11 of the ESL Pro League will be played completely online. In an effort to minimize travel for the players, they split the league into a European and North American division with three groups and one group respectively. This will allow players to remain in their current location and still play in a competitive online environment with minimal network restrictions.
Much will be learned from this experience, as I am sure much will be revealed and improved upon as the industry adjusts to this new normal.