Esports (post) Corona Pandemic

The Covid pandemic would be the katalysator that would sling esports into the mainstream media. That was the prediction two years ago, how much of that promise has survived the test of time?

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

At the start of the pandemic, the world of sports silenced. Except for one discipline: esports. The Covid outbreak would mean the definitive breakthrough of esports with a mainstream audience. We started writing on this blog on CS:GO, Formula-e and League of Legends championships and we had a blast doing it. Nevertheless, we have to admit that our interest faded as other physical sports picked up pace again. The last blog post on esports is now dating a year back. Are we the opportunistic exemption? Or did the whole world had an opportunistic tendency towards esports that is now just a faint memory? Luckily we have statistics to do some comparison. It should also be a blast to find some articles from early 2020 to see how some predictions turned out. Is the esports corona boom promise delivered?

The 2020 tone of voice:

To give you an idea of how the world reacted to the lockdown and the implications this would have on the popularity of esports, here are some articles that date back from april and may 2020. Beginning with one from cnbc called: ‘A chance for esports to seize prime time.’ We quote:

“Nonetheless, Professor Laurel Walzak stressed that televising esports is here to stay and the coronavirus pandemic will serve as a trial-and-error period for the gaming industry, allowing TV executives to further understand “what motivates consumers to watch and convert to watching gaming.”

Some pro athletes believe esports may be able to stand toe-to-toe with live sporting events, especially if fans are hesitant to return to stadiums even after the coronavirus social-distancing period ends.’’  

World Economic Forum

Or how about this article from the World Economic Forum called ‘How COVID-19 is taking gaming and esports to the next level’. Regarding the lorm term effects they predicted:

Finally, the pandemic may lead to the normalization of esports. Analysts have described esports as being “popularized and legitimized in an unpredictable and profound way”, thanks to the unprecedented (and accidental) adoption of esports by broadcasters, leagues and athletes seeking to engage fans. “Among younger demographic groups, a prolonged shutdown for traditional sports leagues may drive more fans to esports on a regular basis – which globally would represent tens of millions of new consumers for the industry”, says Sepso.

At the very least, the pandemic has reminded media companies and brands that there remains an addressable market of highly engaged consumers. Recent developments will likely inch esports towards the mainstream. The earliest proof point is the state of Nevada, which legalized betting on competitive gaming just two weeks into confinement measures in the US.”

This looks all very promising, and indeed, looking at Twitch figures in 2020, we can see where the excitement comes from. From March, the hours viewed skyrocketed. We already need to note here that Twitch and esports are two different things, especially since the addition of ‘just chatting’ to the platform. Which is mainly just attractive women trying to convince viewers to donate. Nevertheless, Twitch is often used as a metric for esports and we will use it here as well.

Twitch by the numbers

The impact of the coronavirus is most notable when looking at the first year of the pandemic. Here we compare the figures of Twitch in january 2020 with those exactly one year later:

2020

  • 39,286,864 hours streamed
  • 52,875 channels were continually live on average
  • 25.98 viewer ratio across the platform

2021

  • 88,749,902 hours streamed
  • 119,448 channels were continually live on average
  • 25.10 viewer ratio across the platform

As you can see here, the hours streamed and the number of continually live channels on average more than doubled. While keeping about the same ratio of viewers per channel on any given moment. Impressive growth, but how much of that growth saw its way into 2022?

2022

The growth did not sustain. Twitch was at its peak in Q2 2021 and then showed a slow decline towards the end of the year. This decline is just minimal though and the difference with Q1 2020 is still enormous. It can’t be denied that Twitch has a much larger customer base than prior to the corona pandemic. The loyalty of these viewers seems to be fluctuating much more than the people that engaged with Twitch prior to 2020. Also noticeable is that Youtube also gained traction since Q1 2020, but not in the way Twitch did. There is thus something in gaming (esports) that attracts people.

Esports tournaments engagement

Twitch and esports are aligned, but not the same. The promise of the pandemic was that esports would break through with the ordinary public, maybe even on television. There might be regional differences, so it is hard to give a decisive conclusion on that prediction.

There will be 29.6 million monthly esports viewers in 2022, up 11.5% from 2021, according to the estimate of Insider Intelligence. This growth is less than the growth of 2020 to 2021 (13,2%) and much less than the 27,4% growth that we saw in 2020. Though, it is still growing. There is no backlash.

Question is whether this is mainly due to the pandemic, as the industry was booming in the years 2015-2019 as well. Regardless, we can conclude that while the first predictions stated in the articles above were a bit too optimistic, esports is still busy becoming mainstream amusement. We have a generation growing up as adults for whom esports are nothing short of equal to regular sports. This generation is what supports growth more than anything else. We expect to see an increase in esports betting as well and we’ll keep supporting all of your favourable games on our sportsbook!

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