During normal times the US baseball season would have started this week. In the online world, esports can still continue.
While the professional sports world has fallen silent, esports is here to fill the void. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted not just sports, but all industries, and how we live our everyday lives. As the world preaches and practices social distancing to lessen the spread of the disease, esports are making less drastic changes than others since the majority of their world is online.
You can still watch esports ‘live’
Stadiums across the US have been unoccupied since the coronavirus silenced nearly all traditional sporting events. As live programming falls off the map for now and schools are shut down, content creators and streamers broadcasting themselves playing video games are faced with an influx of viewers.
The Washington Post interviewed Kent Wakeford, co-founder of Gen.G, an esports organization, “Canceled events impact a certain aspect of the fan experience, but unlike traditional sports where the live event is a financial and economic driver of the overall experience, esports is different in that, from a broadcast perspective, so much of broadcast is focused on online and not as dependent on the live audience,”. Prior to the current pandemic esports leagues had increased their mainstream visibility by selling out arenas like Madison Square Garden, Staples Center, Las Vegas arenas, and even internationally in China for the League of Legends World Championship.
As traditional sports leagues pause during the coronavirus, esports could fill some gaps, since people are staying home both for work and entertainment.Those two reasons are leading directly to watching and participating in the gaming industry.While not ideal, online-only events are not new to esports. Only the top-level tournaments are played in front of packed live audiences. Most regular season matches are held in small studios or arenas, with live fans but almost always with a live stream. So, with sports teams lackinga back up plan they are being affected a lot more. In esports there are fewer event staffers, less contact between players, and not as much reliance on ticket sale to drive esports forward. With COVID-19, esports is returning to their online roots of streaming matches online via sites like Twitch and YouTube.
High schools are shutting down, but not high school esports
The High School Esports League (HSEL) is the largest high school esports league in the US. They announced on March 13th that their “Spring Major” league is going on as planned. Schools are still signing up and registering their rosters. Obviously, there have been some changes to the schedule (no live events/matches) and ALL students from all high schools have the ability to participate. New technologies and features were announced so students can play online from their homes, chat with their team seamlessly in real-time, on their match page, and plan practices virtually.
As the COVID-19 situation heightens everyone is adjusting their day-to-day lives. Tuning into an esports match might not be the same as attending an NBA game, but it can give people an alternative game to watch and cheer on their favorite esports teams/players.