How Esports Can Fill the Void

Overview To fill the absence of live sports events, athletes and fans alike are joining the growing world of esports, giving us a glimpse at a more virtual-friendly future of sports engagement.

As stadiums and sports arenas sit empty during the novel coronavirus outbreak, the virtual world of esports — which has steadily gained popularity on its own — is seeing a boost of activity and interest, as brands turn to screens to keep players and fans engaged from afar.

Streaming platforms, such as Twitch, has seen an unprecedented opportunity to showcase professional esports leagues and convince traditional live sports consumers that the virtual competitive world provides the same level of excitement — or even more, as fans can become players.


Keeping Their Heads in the Game

The suddenly changed landscape of sports gave consumers who have not had a chance to experience esports, or who had not been previously interested in it, the opportunity to embrace the growing gaming industry.

As pro athletes, such as the NBA’s Trae Young and Luka Doncic and more, expressed interest and made their appearances on esports platforms, their fans were also making the move.

“The biggest difficulty with sports simulation games ever becoming top-tier esports was that there was always the option of watching the real thing,” said Will Hershey, CEO of Roundhill Investments as reported in the Washington Post. “You take that out of the picture, and you absolutely could see NBA fans getting into NBA 2K.”

Professional racers including Formula1 (F1), IndyCar and others also went digital, drawing their usual racetrack crowds on streaming platforms. In a scheduled online race, F1 professionals lined up on the screen grid for an esports race.

Neither athletes nor fans diminished their participation in their most loved sports, despite the lack of physical events.

 

Future Ready

Digital sports consumption in the past few years has become much more than sports-related movies and tournament re-runs. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® Esports Landscape and Opportunities Report forecasts U.S. esports fans will grow to 27 million, and even more on a global scale. As esports quickly fills gaps left by traditional sporting events, it shows that the appetite and potential for esports and traditional sports to intertwine more frequently has increased.

In the future, athletes, who are both fans and players in esports and video games, may participate more often in online tournaments. Sports leagues and brands have an opportunity to expand into new territory and attract future fans who may not be able to attend live events but would still like to enjoy the rush of a game.

On the CES® 2020 stage, Sarah Looss, head of sales, Americas, Twitch, explained the benefit of esports when it comes to interacting with fans as well: “It’s that proximity. It’s the way [gamers] feel that there is zero distance between [them] and the athlete.”

The rise of esports has offered access to the sports world for new audiences, and as the world gets back on its feet, new esports fans and professional athletes across the globe may very well secure a more permanent place in the online world.


Learn more about the world of esports from CES 2020.

 

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