The Gaming World Versus COVID-19
March 30, 2020
By Brett Vinokur
Typically, this is the time of year when traditional sports programming dominates the airwaves: MLB, college and professional basketball, hockey, golf and so on. But, alas, they’ve been cancelled or suspended until the current public health crisis is behind us. And many of us are now glued to our televisions to watch the latest world news or using streaming services such as Netflix to binge watch TV series and movies.
Surprisingly, even many scheduled esports events have had to suspend competition due to COVID-19 because esports live events were deemed to be unsafe for players, organizers and spectators alike. Many tournament organizers, like Riot Games, are working to move broadcasts to online only, similar to what Riot is doing with the North American League of Legends Championship Series (“NALCS”).
The gaming world is fortunate to be able to flourish during these times, which have become increasingly dependent on and adapted to the virtual landscape. Gamers around the world are coming together using the hashtag #gamersvsCOVID19 to share their love of gaming as a way not only to effectively socially distance, but also to continue sharing content and competition. Traditional sports are taking notice of this movement in esports and looking to seize upon the opportunity. NASCAR and Fox are teaming up to bring an eNASCAR competition to life in the absence of otherwise cancelled NASCAR races. The first broadcast aired this past weekend on Fox Sports 1. Certain professional athletes, such as Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward, have been streaming via gaming as a way to connect with their fans since well before the pandemic. Others will likely follow suit.
Yet for those individuals who have made streaming video game content a career on platforms, like Twitch and Mixer, the impact of this pandemic will not go unnoticed. It is too early to tell if new viewers will flock to esports as a form of entertainment during our period of social distancing, but many content creators rely on the generous support of their fans through subscriptions to generate revenue. As the economic shock around the world continues, it will be interesting to see how the gaming industry navigates this potential opportunity.
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