The Future Of Esports In The Post-Pandemic Landscape
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world on its head, resulting in a new normal that both individuals and corporations are still struggling with. With lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing, sports and entertainment events have suffered the most. Any event that requires a physical gathering of people has been impossible for a while and probably will be in the near future. Meanwhile, interest in gaming has surged. So let’s take a look at The Future Of Esports In The Post-Pandemic Landscape.
While the competitive gaming industry is not totally immune to the effects of the pandemic, there has been, on the whole, a massive surge in eSports activities during this time. While most industries are dealing with major economic disruptions, the gaming industry is remarkably poised to absorb its impact. When people mostly stay and work from home, gaming is undoubtedly one of the best entertainment outlets that can be safely engaged in.
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In fact, traditional sports and entertainment sectors are also turning towards the virtual model to stay relevant and keep interests up. Shining examples are NASCAR and Formula One, both of which have started hosting virtual races with drivers and celebrities with the blessings of major broadcasters.
Given these developments and the unique nature of eSports, let us take a look at how it can undergo a transformation in the post-pandemic landscape.
Normalizing eSports In This Post Pandemic Landscape
With the pandemic and its effects, one possible outcome can certainly be the normalization of eSports and its widespread acceptance as a legitimate form of entertainment and competitive sports. If we trace the growth of eSports since people first started getting excited about it, a lot has indeed changed.
The first wave of excitement around eSports started roughly around 2014, with many teams and startups eager to discover the mileage that can be achieved from this latest contemporary trend. However, the fortunes of those investing time and resources in eSports have generally not been pleasant. Teams have fallen victim to lack of revenue generation, high valuations, and financial losses that precluded further investment. Most of the startups have also withstood rough times or shut down.
However, with the advent of the pandemic, there has been a sudden and unforeseen change in its fortunes. Not only are more people investing time in eSports, but it also has seen widespread adoption in the form of business investments and airtime from mainstream media and broadcasters. Since traditional sports leagues and events have been shut down for the foreseeable future as a result of the pandemic, the eSports market has seen millions of new consumers, both in terms of participation and consumption.
During the pandemic, several games have made their first appearances on mainstream cable and broadcast television. Fox and ESPN, for example, are airing liberal amounts of eSports with record-high viewership numbers. Along with fans of real sports, a lot of athletes have also made the switch to eSports, drawing in large numbers of fans and followers.
Adoption has taken place in more ways than one. For example, US states have started legalizing betting activities on competitive gaming, signaling another way that eSports might be here to stay even after the immediate effects of the pandemic wind down.
The fact that top competitive eSports players are now able to take home rich financial prizes has caused renewed interest in eSports and its possibilities. Major competitive tournaments now offer millions in terms of prize money. This year, compensations stemming from eSports tournaments have already started creeping towards the $20 million mark.
With the increase in income and exposure, the top representatives of the eSports world have also been able to attract revenue in other ways. A lot of the mainstays of the eSports world have scored lucrative sponsorships and started side businesses. Platforms like Twitch have also been responsible for this growth in a significant way, with star performers being able to dictate their own terms and for new associations.
Apart from eSports players, teams, and management companies, the financial appeal of eSports has crossed over to other areas. With operators and team owners in the realm of traditional sports now displaying a new level of interest, the infusion of cash in eSports is likely to continue unabated for quite some time. Even if the interest wanes a little after the effects of the pandemic are mitigated, the direction of eSports looks to be set.
Crossovers and New Opportunities
With the exponential increase in interest in eSports, there is also the opportunity to leverage this growing arena in creative and innovative ways. These initiatives have already started and shown excellent results.
One prominent example of this trend is the “in-game concert” that was attended by over 12 million Fortnite players. Using the Fortnite client, players could view the virtual concert by Travis Scott inside the game with the artist performing as an avatar. At a time when there are no concerts to go to, this is precisely the kind of crossover that makes sense.
Another significant crossover trend is the advent of in-game advertising spots and reward drops. Companies have started using banner ads for brand partners that would be visible to game stream viewers. High-profile brands like Alienware and Mastercard have already signed on with more expected to join.
Reward Drops that promise rewards and promotional items from partner brands have also started making an appearance in eSports. These are supposed to provide further incentives to viewers and draw in more eyeballs as more and more eSports tournaments find mainstream appeal.
The Way Forward And The Future Of Esports
While the pandemic and its effects are not likely to stay forever, the new opportunities and renewed public interest in eSports might well be here to stay long after its effects are gone. Innovative crossover strategies and new revenue streams have increased mass participation in eSports to a level that is unlikely to deplete any time soon.
In fact, the eSports realm looks set to become an integral part of the broader entertainment ecosystem where it can coexist with traditional sports events, conventional entertainment events, and traditional advertising efforts. There is also an opportunity for new service providers to break ground offering new opportunities and jobs.
The pandemic has reminded one and all that eSports, for all its past pitfalls, still remains a highly lucrative and profitable arena with millions of engaged consumers waiting for the next big thing.