The COVID-19 pandemic is helping eSports transition into the mainstream. With the eyes of the entire planet fixed into this budding industry, eSports is evolving and adapting.
Major television networks around the world are scrambling to fill the void brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Major sports including basketball, football, baseball, and hockey are all put in indefinite suspension.
Responding to this lack of programming, networks like ESPN and Fox Sports started airing classic sports matchups, documentaries, and eSports tournaments. This helps bring eSports into the mainstream.
eSports is going mainstream
ESPN, one of the leading sports channels, hosted the ESPN eSports Day on April 5. This is a full 12-hour programming which televised games like Formula 1 eSports Virtual Grand Prix, Rocket League, and Madden NFL20.
The opening round of the NBA 2K20 Tournament was also played during the ESPN event. Notable NBA stars including Donovan Mitchell and Kevin Durant participated in the event. Devin Booker won the $100,000 tournament prize and donated it to help COVID-19 relief operations.
— NBA 2K20 (@NBA2K) April 12, 2020
Airing of eSports tournaments are not uncommon in many mainstream networks. In fact, some of these networks already have a dedicated eSports channel. However, this is a relatively niche channel that only dedicated and hardcore eSports fans watch it. Compared to the size of major sports channels, eSports is negligible.
Now that all major sports are cancelled, eSports is making its way into the mainstream channel. Recently, ESPN and Fox hosted a number of eSports tournaments, among them are Nascar iRacing and the Overwatch League.
Live eSports events were also cancelled because of the pandemic. Which is why notable eSports titles like Overwatch, League of Legends, CS:GO, and Dota 2 have all announced that they will host online tournaments instead.
Appealing to a new demographics
If the numbers are to be scrutinized, a majority of eSports fans are millennials aged between 12 and 35. This means that the eSports craze has yet to penetrate some of traditional sports’ demographics.
It is also important to note that the eSports fan base mostly focused on games that have real-world counterpart, like basketball, football, and racing. The mainstream audience has yet to grasp the mechanics and appeal of other popular gaming genres like MOBAs and First-Person-Shooters.
Despite these hurdles, gaming companies are stepping up to the challenge and institute plans in order to grab the opportunity brought about by this pandemic. Activision Blizzard recently announced that it will introduce live events for online tournament matches.
Image courtesy of Chongkian/Wikimedia Commons