At the time of writing, the world is still coming to grips with the outbreak of COVID-19 and this has had a major impact on our lives. In many ways, we have learned to live with the virus but it has led to significant changes to the things we love, including eSports.
At first glance, it would appear something such as eSports would benefit from a situation where people are forced to stay at home more often. The majority of professional sports around the world came to a halt and this led people to trying an alternative, such as playing video games. There are several high-quality sports based video games but competitive eSports involves a variety of games including fighting games, first-person shooters, multiplayer online battle arena games, racing games, real-time strategy games, third-person shooters, and card games.
Not only did the number of people playing online competitive video games in the general public increase, as long gone are the days of men only fans as there are also a lot of girls in gaming now too, but so did the number of professional athletes participating in eSports. The eSports industry was one of the first to react to the global crisis and did so by offering virtual entertainment with professional traditional sports players. This included Formula 1 and NASCAR’s virtual racing, the latter of which became the highest-rated televised esports event in history. There was even an opportunity to have a wager on the some of the events, with esport betting leading the way in terms of reviews, odds, and bonuses.
Despite the success of the events highlighted above, the pandemic has also had a negative effect on the eSports industry. eSports is not entirely based online and there is a wealth of physical-world tournaments and events played across the world. For example, the Fortnite World Cup is one of the biggest eSports tournaments on the planet but that was forced to cancel in 2020 due to coronavirus. Several other events for games including League of Legends, Hearthstone, FIFA 20, Apex Legends, Rocket League, and Call of Duty were also cancelled or postponed.
Thousands of people attend the biggest eSports tournaments which are contested in large arenas around the world. There are many elements which combine to make these events work including fan attendance, sponsorship, advertising, live screenings, prize money, media, and so much more. Some event organisers will usually have 10 or more stadium size competitions plus thousands of smaller, in-person events and they were cancelled in 2020.
Other events which are based on eSports were also forced to postpone or cancel in 2020, including TwitchCon to BlizzCon.
However, everyone involved in professional eSports reacted quickly to the global crisis and this led to the creation of online only events. The online tournaments allowed the eSports players to continue playing plus provided the fans with something to watch during the lockdown periods. There have been many lessons learned during Covid-19 and these will be carried forward into the future of eSports. We are sure to see the introduction of more online only events but at the same time, players and fans will be itching to get back into the arena.