In light of the COVID-19 virus, members of the gaming and esports industry have taken the responsible decision to cancel global gaming events including all EA Games competitive gaming events, League of Legends Championship Series, Overwatch and Call of Duty league events.
The lack of real-world gaming events is a massive loss for the event organisers, players and the gaming community, but with many esports events holding over 10,000 attendees, the risk of infection was too high to ignore.
Has the recent news identified a weak spot in esports? Will it survive without physical events? The simple answer: absolutely!
Brands may feel that the highly sought after esports audiences are unreachable without these major events, but the reality is, that esports audiences have never been more accessible. Competitive gaming has been thriving for years, and while the physical attendees at these events are essential to the live esports experience, the scale of this audience pales in comparison to their online counterpart.
The ESL One powered by Intel and the Intel® Extreme Masters (IEM) World Championship lasted two weeks, welcoming a whopping 174,000 fans through their doors. Across their digital channels, these tournaments racked up 157 million hours of views by an online audience of 232 million.
Physical attendees to this event accounted for less than 0.8% of the entire audience, in one day alone, there were 20 million unique viewers online, compared to the 10,000 - 15,000 attending each day!
ESL and Intel are just one example, but the stats are mirrored across the board. The majority of esports audiences are digital, and the esports industry has tapped into this by distributing these events across TV, streaming platforms, social networks, news websites, consoles, and so much more.
The name esports has never been more accurate as the industry mirrors the sporting world ever closer, yet unlike football and tennis, professional gamers can compete professionally online. We’ve seen Overwatch and Call of Duty esports leagues take advantage of their online following by moving to online-only matches.
Taking their events online feels like a natural next step for esports teams, allowing them to compete for the highly sought after prize money while casting to their global fanbase.
While some brands may have concerns about the longevity of esports, the data tells a different story. There were approximately 443 million esports viewers in 2019, and that's expected to surge to roughly 646 million viewers by 2023 (Newzoo).
Brands don’t need esports championships to engage with esports audiences. These audiences are playing on gaming consoles, visiting gaming news sites, scanning esports leagues, reviewing esport earnings, clueing up on gaming tips, chatting on gaming forums and more.
Until esports championships open their doors again, their esports audiences are where they have always been - online.