With sporting events across the globe cancelled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, esports and gaming have seen a rapid rise in popularity as people look for alternative entertainment.
The increased popularity is filling a social void as much as bringing entertainment into many homes. Online gaming is allowing people to still connect with each other - even in lockdown - through major titles such as League of Legends, Call of Duty and FIFA, or through broadcast events. A recent PwC survey of 2,000 people revealed that just under half of participants are now playing or watching gaming content each week. This increases further for younger age groups, with more than two-thirds of under 35s playing or watching gaming content.
With more than half of under 35s open to watching gaming or esports, in the absence of traditional sport, it’s no surprise that more mainstream organisations are turning to virtual competitions to appease fans, media and sponsors, and supplement lost revenue. The Grand National, Formula 1, Moto GP, the Spanish La Liga football league and NASCAR have all run online events, with many broadcast to millions on TV or streaming services. The Premier League, working with Gfinity, have launched an inaugural ePremier League Invitational Tournament to fill the void in schedules.
The rise of esports is a trend that we’ve tracked for several years in our Global Entertainment & Media Outlook. From a niche global market worth US$194m in 2014, esports revenues leapt to US$980m in 2019 and were projected to rise to almost US$1.8bn by 2023. But this was before COVID-19. Now, this projected figure looks understated.
With esports catapulted into the spotlight, it will be interesting to see what comes next.
While it’s too early to say, this could be a defining moment for esports. It’s unclear the extent to how much interest will stick when live events can take place again and lockdowns are lifted. But those organisations that work strategically over the coming weeks and months will create a solid foundation from which they will be well-positioned to reap the rewards.