More Than A Game: The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Turned Esports Into An Economy Of Its Own
from the jobs-jobs-jobs dept
One of the dangers when we talk about esports and its rapid growth, particularly during this pandemic, is that those not in the know can see this as hobbyists touting their own hobby. It’s understandable to some degree, what with this industry being both in its infancy stage and growing exponentially in speed. Still, while we’ve had several posts lately focusing on how esports is happily filling the void of traditional live sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is worth remembering that this isn’t just a hobby any longer. It’s an economy in and of itself.
And that, to put a fine point on it, means jobs. Lots and lots of jobs, actually, and economic growth going along with it. NBC has an illuminating post on just how fast streaming companies are expanding to keep up with the esports demand.
Viewership on Amazon’s Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and other streaming platforms has spiked tremendously in the past couple of months, owing to the fact that esports was born and exists online and competitors can play remotely in its virtual realm during the crisis. And although the millions of Americans suddenly unemployed include tens of thousands of people who work for the shuttered traditional sports leagues’ offices, ballparks and stadiums, as well as the ancillary businesses that support and supply them, the esports workforce is relatively intact.
“Yes, we are still hiring,” said a spokesperson for the streaming website Twitch, a unit of Amazon that enjoyed a 23% surge in viewership in March. In mid-May its jobs page listed more than 115 positions, from a senior software engineer at its San Francisco headquarters to an advertising sales director in Singapore.
It’s not just that esports is now a billion dollar industry. It’s also that it’s an industry somewhat uniquely positioned to not just weather this pandemic, but to thrive during it. And, as more and more people adopt esports for entertainment while traditional sports are shutdown, there is no reason to think that all of those new adopters are suddenly going to disappear if and when life goes back to something relatively normal. But above, you’re talking about the primary players in the industry: leagues, teams, streaming platforms. Of course those have all grown.
But the real power in esports becoming a fully fleshed out industry is, just like with real sports, all of the jobs and industry that come along for the ride. Industry that, again, is well crafted for the very young people that suddenly find themselves without opportunities for jobs in more traditional workplaces.
The burgeoning esports workforce — largely comprised of millennials and Gen Zers — also includes software engineers, content creators, data analysts, game designers, social media specialists, broadcasters, journalists, marketers, partnership managers, advertising and sponsorship salespeople, event managers, venue operators, concessionaires, accountants, lawyers and office staff. There are private chefs and house managers employed at the digs where teams live together, and there are counselors who wrangle kids at esports summer camps.
“You see a lot of mirroring of the traditional sports industry in terms of employment opportunities, but the roles have a twist on them,” said Remer Rietkerk, head of esports at Amsterdam-based Newzoo, a market research firm specializing in esports and gaming. “You have a different set of challenges due to esports being digital and attracting a different audience,” he added, alluding to the worldwide fan base of 443 million, according to Newzoo’s latest Global Esports Market Report.
And the trend lines are all rising. All of this is to say a couple of things. First, esports isn’t some fad that’s going away any time soon. Second, it’s long past time we stop talking about esports as though it were this niche entertainment choice enjoyed by very few via a few odd and hard to navigate internet platforms.
No, esports is big business. And big entertainment. Even the traditional broadcasters are paying attention and turning to esports in this time of crisis. Before the pandemic, esports was finding itself on larger and larger platforms and on more and more traditional networks. This crisis only supercharged that trend.
And finally, if you care about jobs and economic growth, that is all very welcome news in times like these.