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HAS THE COVID 19 PANDEMIC BEEN A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR THE ESPORTS INDUSTRY?

The global video game industry is thriving, despite the widespread economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. With the practice of social distancing reducing consumer and business activity to a minimum, gaming offers an engaging distraction for people at home looking for social interaction, and initial data shows huge growth in playing time and sales in video games and gaming consoles in general since the lockdowns began. Gaming not only offers a source of entertainment from the usual boredom caused by the mass lockdowns but also allows people to communicate and play with or against each other online. With the lack of broadcast of actual sports, many fans flocked to streaming platforms such as TwitchTV to enjoy a digital alternative in the form of Esports. TwitchTV alone recorded five billion watch hours during the second quarter of this year, its highest ever figure, and a huge leap on three billion hours in the first quarter. In India, some of the most-watched esports titles include League of Legends, Fortnite, PUBG: Mobile, FIFA, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and DotA, among others.

ESPORTS AN INDUSTRY ON THE RISE

In recent years, the Esports industry has gone to the next level with modern games and the development of many broadcasting platforms such as Twitch, Youtube Gaming, and more. The increasing demand for video games and rising awareness of esports contribute to the growth of its market. The global video game market is forecast to be worth $159 billion in 2020, around four times box office revenues ($43 billion in 2019) and almost three times music industry revenues ($57 billion in 2019). The biggest market by revenue is Asia-Pacific with almost 50% of the games market by value. North America accounts for a quarter of revenue. Esports growth is expected to continue over the next several years, with a predicted increase of over $1.4 billion by 2024. The coronavirus will help drive this growth in the short term, but even after the pandemic has passed, the global esports market can expect to continue growing despite some potential lost viewers. It’s not just consumers who are focusing more on the world of esports betting. With no sports to look for sponsors and investors are also investing more into the esports side of things during this time, looking to capitalize on the boom that is currently happening. There’s a considerable level of interest from potential investors, who are realizing that esports is resilient to many of the forces that affect traditional sports, not least COVD-19 and a potential recession.

Due to the suspension or postponement of certain sports events, has given esports access to a bigger audience around the world. Traditional sports fans are turning to esports for their entertainment, and some TV networks are broadcasting esports tournaments to fill time slots left empty by other sporting events. While many viewers may abandon esports once their favorite sports resume, this is still an opportunity for the esports market to pick up many new fans who will maintain their interest after the pandemic. With no sports during lockdowns, the traditional sports organizations and leagues started holding their very own esports venture, Premier League for example held an Esport event featuring some of the best footballers playing FIFA. Formula 1 also held its own version of Esports in the form of F1 Esports, featuring top drivers from the sport. These broadcasts provide opportunities for players and teams to reach their fans and potentially attract new ones while physical games aren’t possible, as well as to still fulfill obligations to sponsors through this alternative content.

 

TOP BUZZING AND GROSSING ESPORTS TITLES DURING THE PANDEMIC

 

1. FORTNITE


Fortnite has arguably been one of the most popular games in the recent years and by far the most popular game in the battle royale Esports genre. Since the COVID 19 lockdowns around the world, the game has had staggering numbers of people viewing it on various broadcast platforms as well as playing the game in general. Fortnite is a free to play battle royale game. Most of the sales come from Ingame cosmetics sold at the Fortnite item shop. The game declared a record 25% increase in its annual cosmetic sale for the month of September. Fortnite also boasts a record number of Twitch Viewers with around 700,000 concurrent viewers viewing their favorite streamers play Fortnite. One of the most important factors is it’s free to play nature and less demanding graphics that allow nearly all PCs to handle the game. Fortnite has also been offering a lot of high prize pool tournaments for its player base keeping the player base happy and satisfied and most importantly engaged during this tough period.

  1. CALL OF DUTY

    The Call of Duty series by Activision has always been a fan favorite acquiring millions of players worldwide across all ages. The fast-paced nature of the first-person shooter never fails to entertain the gamers. Last year, Activision studios implemented the Battle Royale genre into Call of Duty with the introduction of Call of Duty Warzone. People’s love for battle royale did not stop from H1Z1 to PUBG and at present Fortnite and COD Warzone. A large chunk of the battle royale player base was taken away by Warzone after its release. At present, it boasts a total of around 200 Million active registered accounts worldwide. The numbers are quite staggering however, they seem low when compared to Fortnite’s 450 million active player base. The reason behind the lesser number in the player base when compared to Fortnite is the demanding graphics required to run the game of Warzone which is not possible for a lot of players. However, Warzone has been consistently attaining around the same number of average viewers on the streaming platform when compared to Fortnite. Warzone is a game that is currently on the growth, and the pandemic is helping it in certain aspects bringing in a large number of players.

 

  1. VALORANT-

    Valorant is a competitive first-person tactical shooter Esports title launched on June 2, 2020. The parent company Riot Games are known for a number of Esports titles including League of Legends. Valorant is another free to play title that brought in considerable attention. People describe the game as a mixture of two of the finest Esports titles of all time Overwatch and Counter-Strike. The massive hype bought in a large number of players. There was also a considerable increase in the number of viewers on Twitch and other platforms. In India, the game has been a huge hit. Following Tencent’s PUBG Mobile’s ban in India, a large number of the Indian player base shifted to Valorant. In the v1.10 update, Valorant also dropped the Indian Servers in order to attract even more players. Valorant’s potential is endless and with more Indian players amidst the ranks, the game is going in the right direction towards being a massive success.

 

  1. FIFA –

    Fifa as an Esports title has been one of the most popular games around the world. The FIFA esports series is an association football simulation video game released every year annually by developers EA Sports. Football fans in general love the game of FIFA as they are able to represent their favorite football team as a game itself. The competitive side of FIFA includes a large number of annual competitions and tournaments including the FIFA eWorld Cup, the eChampions League, and more. Last year, the English Premier League also introduced its own version of ePremier League, featuring all the 20 clubs in the Premier League with participants representing their respective clubs. Top football players also love the game and advertise it in many ways possible. FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode brings in a lot of its revenue apart from the usual sale of the game. Enthusiastic FIFA players spend lots of money buying FIFA coins and points in order to redeem player packs and get their favorite players. The average viewership for FIFA on the streaming platforms is quite high with around 600,000 viewers annually at an average. With the regular game updates, and new implementations and features, every edition brings with it, FIFA is an evergreen ESPORTS title which is bound to achieve success.

SETBACKS CAUSED BY COVID 19

In spite of all the advantages of increased viewership and events that largely take place online, there are some challenges to the esports industry during the pandemic. Gaming and Esports titles are mainly played online. However, events such as the finals of a competition or a public event for the launch of a game were made to attract a live audience in order to expand their market and also to bring in a source of revenue with the sale of merchandise and tickets. While some of these events have been moved online, many have been canceled outright, and the online events obviously lack the sales opportunities and extra content of their live counterparts. The loss of these events means millions of dollars in lost revenue, and while that may only be a small hit for an industry that’s worth billions, it’s still a hindrance to esports growth in 2020.

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