Esports and the corona crisis: 5 developments at a glance

Although it may seem as if the sports world has come to a standstill, the esports industry keeps developing. Because a large part of the world population remains at home, we can see several exciting developments.

COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus. There's no getting around it. It holds the entire world, especially the sports world, in its grip. In large parts of the world, people need to stay at home as much as possible. Although it may seem as if the sports world has come to a downtime, the esports industry keeps developing. We will discuss 5 of these exciting developments and initiatives in esports.



1. Overload and new records

Since a large part of the world population remains at home, we can see several fascinating developments. Major streaming services like Netflix and YouTube have recently announced that they will lower their bitrate. This means that the quality of their videos will become slightly worse. This measure is being taken to avoid potential network problems, as both the number of users and the minutes we watch have increased significantly on both services. The streaming services are not the only ones to see a significant change in the use of their services. In recent weeks, game distribution platform Steam broke several records. At one point, it had more than 22 million users at the same time. The esports game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive led the charge with 1 million simultaneous players. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was followed closely by other esports like Dota 2 (2nd with 700,000 players) and Playerunknown's Battlegrounds (3rd with 500,000 players). Steam wasn't the only game publisher with a successful week: On the 10th of November, Activision Blizzard released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC through Battle.net, their distribution platform. They recently added a game mode called 'Warzone'. The battle royale mode is extremely popular. In just two weeks after its release, Call of Duty Warzone had 30 million unique players worldwide.

2. Charity initiatives

Several esports teams have decided to join forces against the coronavirus. Flyquest, Immortals Gaming Club, Dignitas and Cloud9 are esports team that organized the 'Wash Yo Hands Tourney' event. During this tournament, money was collected to fight the coronavirus. And this was not the only initiative to raise money. The international organization WePlay! Esports organized a Dota 2 tournament to raise money for "the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations" and the "GlobalGiving Coronavirus Relief Fund". Most of the participating teams originally had to play in the ESL One Los Angeles Major. This tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Other notable charity tournaments include the Call of Duty: Warzone tournaments hosted by the esports teams FaZe Clan and 100 Thieves, and the FIFA 20 tournament by the name of #UltimateQuaranTeam hosted by football club Leyton Orient.

Besides, Overwatch League player Dustin "Dogman" Bowerman shaved his head and donated $100 to the COVID-19 Relief. He did this as part of the #QuarantineChallenge. After he revealed his new look, he challenged other popular streamers like TimTheTatman, Shroud and Summit1g to do the same.

3. LEC & LCS go online

The European and North American League of Legends competitions will continue online. Publisher Riot Games announced this on the 17th of March. Riot Games did this in response to the coronavirus.

The LEC will mostly take place in the League of Legends training complex in Berlin. The only team that will not play there is Origen. They have decided to use their training complex in Copenhagen. They were already planning to do so because the Danish government had announced a lockdown. As a result, they couldn't leave the country.

On the 21st of March, the North American LCS took place online for the first time. In addition to the shift to online, the finals will also take place somewhere else. The final has been moved from Frisco in Texas to Los Angeles.

The South Korean and Chinese League of Legends competitions were already postponed earlier. The Chinese competition continued online on the 9th of May, and in South Korea, the competition has returned as normal.

4. Athletes turned esport athletes

Gaming is already one of the favourite pastimes of many professional athletes, and the corona crisis is giving them more time to play. Gareth Bale has founded the esports organization Ellevens Esports in collaboration with 38 Entertainment Group. For the time being, Ellevens Esports will focus on FIFA. In the future, they also want to set up a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a Rocket League and a Fortnite team.

Jonathan Kark (Co-founder of 38 Entertainment Group) foresees growth in the esports industry and is prepared to invest heavily in complementary business in the esports ecosystem in the coming year.

La Liga recently organized a competition in Spain, in which each club could send in one player to participate in a FIFA 20 tournament. Marco Asensio from Real Madrid was the winner. Likewise, 433 has started a major FIFA competition among professional footballers in Europe who play against each other from home.

has also started a major FIFA competition among professional footballers in Europe who play against each other from home. Players like Mesut Özil and Julian Draxler have already streamed how they play Fortnite. In the United States, athletes are sharing how they spend their time playing games. Finally, professional cyclists will compete virtually in a new five-day esports race in April.

5. Virtual Grand Prix

Formula 1 is also severely affected by the coronavirus. At the time of writing, the season is scheduled to start mid-June instead of March. To still offer a programme, F1 has announced a virtual Grand Prix. In the Virtual Grand Prix Series, several F1 drivers and stars will compete in the game F1 2019. F1 does this in collaboration with Gfinity. Gfinity will broadcast the event from their esports arena in London.

The first digital race took place at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The selection of drivers included Lando Norris (driver for McLaren), Dino Beganovic (driver for the Ferrari Driver Academy) and Aamir Thacker (streamer & content creator).

The American motorsport has also focused on esports. Nascar drivers now compete online. The organization even collaborated with Fox Sports, so that fans can watch their favourite sport live on TV like 'normal'.

Another good example comes from the Phoenix Suns. The NBA club has decided to finish the season by competing on NBA2K and stream the games on Twitch. Thanks to the efforts of influencers, the virtual game against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday the 20th of March drew 221,000 spectators. The Suns' Twitch account went from 0 to nearly 5,000 followers in the span of a few days. The Suns also gave its sponsors a place in the game by broadcasting advertisements during the breaks. A link to the webshop was shown after the game, and the number of online orders was higher than usual during this time of the year.

Esports and gaming as the way to keep in touch with fans and each other?

In these uncertain times, only one thing seems clear: esports and gaming are great ways to keep in touch with fans. Clubs, associations and sponsors should consider how they can use gaming and esports to guide the sport and their sponsors through these hard times. Since physical events can no longer take place, fans use, even more than usual, their PC or Playstation. Dutch initiatives to keep activating and entertaining fans are also catching on. That is not surprising at all, since the urge to compete, to challenge oneself and to come together never disappears. Easily accessible online tournaments are fully slotted in no time by enthusiastic fans who want to continue to challenge themselves.

Is this the ideal time to get a taste of the online gaming world? In these days, it is no longer wise to speak of an 'ideal moment'. But if you want to start in an accessible way, connect people and show that you know your target group, then an online tournament is a fun and "value-adding" action with social impact. Stay safe and game at home where everyone equal and connected to each other.