One Consequence Of The COVID-19 Shutdown? This Is Esports' Moment
from the if-not-now-when? dept
For the better part of a decade now, we’ve been discussing the growth of esports as a cultural thing. This genre of competition has hit milestone after milestone, from organized and broadcasted tournaments, to professional and collegiate teams and leagues, up to and including big boy television broadcasts. More recently we’ve been discussing how esports has been filling the void in various forms for fans of IRL sports, with versions of sports being played by real-life professional players. Even beyond that, the fact is that a thirst for consuming competitive arrangements has caused an uptick in interest in esports across the board.
To put it simply, this is esports’ moment. If ever there was going to be a major uptick in both viewership of esports and participation, it would be now, at a time when traditional sports aren’t being played, and arenas will remain empty for the forseeable future. Interestingly, the trend towards that uptick has already begun.
As people abide by stay at home orders, there’s one industry that’s seeing an uptick in business, and that’s eSports.
Super League Gaming saw new registered users grow by 20% in March, according to new figures released by the company. In the months before the COVID-19 crisis new users grew 6-7%.
Roughly nine million hours of game play was logged in the first quarter of 2020, including five million hours in March alone. Minehut, Super League’s Minecraft community, is currently on pace to see more than 600,000 players in the month of April.
While that’s only 1 datapoint, a 300% increase in customer adoption into participation in esports is an impressive number. Given the streaming numbers, not to mention some actual televised broadcasts, for the esports events being put on by the likes of NASCAR and MLB, suddenly it seems as though there is enough of a vacuum for esports to gain a foothold in the wider public arena. Should IRL sports continue to be shutdown for any significant period of time, a prospect that seems more likely every day, that foothold could turn to cement and the industry could explode.
One of the most recent NASCAR virtual race events, broadcast on Fox Sports, got 1.3 million viewers. The average NASCAR race on television gets roughly 3 million viewers. In virtually no time at all, with little in the way of marketing, the esports version of NASCAR got half the eyeballs of its IRL counterpart. That is bonkers! It’s also an esports broadcast record.
But likely not for long. This trend is going to continue. The key will be making it a big enough bang to outlast this global nightmare we’re all in. When IRL sports come back, that will be the real test.