Pfizer is to the rescue, COVID-19 Vaccine will help return life to normal, but what does the future look like after a pandemic for esports?
In March, during the rise in COVID-19 cases, lockdowns were worldwide and everything that would have people gathering in mass was canceled. This, unfortunately, included sporting events, concerts, and social meetings. Everyone, all at once, got locked in their house with absolutely nothing going on.
However, people are resilient — they found ways to normalize things like ESPN and even social gatherings through video games. There was even a Travis Scott concert through the popular game, Fortnite that gathered 12.3 million viewers.
The emergence of esports
When sports were canceled, sports channels switched to showing and putting on esports games like NBA 2K20 and even Formula One Racing with F1 2020. These games pride themselves on being the closest simulation to real life sports a person could get on a computer or console. With these being popular games, with millions of players, they quickly caught fire when ESPN, and other sports networks started streaming professional gamers playing each other on live TV.
This was a shock to viewers since watching a person play a video game obviously doesn’t seem appealing. Yet, in a world that was craving competitive sports where none were to be found, these esports games found a home with ever-growing fan bases. Long gone are the days where esports competitions were just a group of 13-year-olds playing League of Legends. It’s now become a global phenomenon and also a way for major payouts.
A beyond rewarding occupation
Within the game Gran Turismo there was even a player, Jann Mardenborough, who as a result of playing this game got a shot to actually drive a real formula one car with the team NISMO, a division of Nissan. This was due to a time trial challenge introduced by Nissan which led to a reality show which had contestants compete in driving challenges and aerobatic airplane stunts. In the end, it was Jann Mardenborough who came out on top and was given a chance to race a real Nissan GT at the 24 Hours of Dubai, finishing in third.
With these games getting as close to reality as possible and even leading careers into the real things they are simulating, these games and races being broadcasted seemed to hold everyone over until the NBA bubble started and the NFL returned to normal.
Will esports stick?
Where does the competitive scene for these games go? Now that there have been stable protocols and quarantining in place for professional sports, with the Super Bowl around the corner and the NBA season in full swing, can these games survive?
The short answer, yes. These games saw huge spikes in popularity from their broadcasts during lockdowns. The prize pools may have shrunk a bit from 2019’s competitive pool of 1.2 million with 360 thousand going to the champion, to around only 900 thousand in the pool and 420 thousand going to the winner.
Nevertheless, these games have become increasingly competitive and even more interesting to watch with thousands of players vying for their chance to get a taste of the current year’s prize pool. This has been the trend over many other video games and has solidified the esports world as the next new, and cool, emerging sports marketplace.
The pandemic may have shut down sports in real life, but the players and people will always find a way to keep playing and make it as interesting as possible.
Austin is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and poet. Austin is a recent graduate from The Catholic University with a B.A. in Drama and a focus on performing arts. When not writing, he is an aspiring actor in the New York and New England area.