Live sporting events, both traditional and esports, were put on an indefinite pause on the global COVID pandemic took over. Many things had to change to adapt to the situation, including the transition of esports tournaments from in-person events to online streams. Eventually, things will likely be similar to how they were before the pandemic. Will that hurt the esports industry?
What is considered normal after COVID?
Normal life after COVID would see all of the restrictions and changes made to limit infection disappear. That means there would be no mask requirements, social gatherings could be more than six people and big events like concerts and tournaments would be open once more. In-restaurant dining would be a thing again and movie theaters would be able to have the entire room filled with people instead of just a few chairs.
How could online tournament viewership change?
These changes caused by the pandemic won’t last forever, and those times will likely return at some point. While many will cherish their return, online esports tournaments might see the situation differently.
When traditional sports organizations put competitions on hold, online esports competitions flourished. Since many people were stuck at home in front of their devices and couldn’t watch basketball or football, esports filled that gap. The League of Legends World Championship racked up over 139,000,000 hours watched, making it the most-watched esports tournament of all time, according to esports viewership statistics website Esports Charts.
Once people can attend social events again, those viewership numbers might dwindle, especially during the weekend. The same could be true after work hours and during any free time when some will pick socializing over sitting home and watching an online esports tournament. Thankfully, esports tournaments are not just online events.
How could the re-opening of events, lounges, and bars affect esports?
When public places open up again, you can be darn sure the attendance of esports tournaments will go through the roof. IEM Katowice 2019 broke previous records for tournament attendance with 174,000 fans coming to Poland to watch their favorite CS:GO teams go head-to-head.
With no in-person tournaments in 2020, fans are hungry for the kind of adrenaline you can only get from live sporting events. Those who can’t travel to the arena where the tournament is actually taking place are likely to gather at bars and lounges that host esports viewing parties.
Sure, at-home viewing of esports tournaments might take a hit, but that doesn’t mean esports tournaments as a whole will lose their audience. Instead of transitioning from live events to online ones, we will see the opposite happen in the long run as our lives return to normal. Some tournament organizers already have potential plans for LAN events in 2021. Riot Games, for example, hope that their Valorant Champions Tour Masters events will have their LAN events this year. ESL has a similar goal for some of their CS:GO Masters and Challenger events.
Will the decline of viewership be temporary?
Initially, there might be a sharp drop in viewership as “live sports and other forms of entertainment return competing for fans’ attention.” That will eventually even out. Some of the new fans attracted to esports in the pandemic period will turn into long-term audience members to benefit the industry.
While that initial drop may be scary for brands and tournament organizers, those who stick it out will see the same if not higher profit levels as LAN events pre-COVID.