eSports During COVID-19

Ever since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of the COVID-19 disease a global pandemic, the whole world has had to make a lot of adjustments, including the eSports industry. With lockdowns being imposed as well as mass events being banned, the world of competitive gaming is in a precarious yet opportune point in its growth. The state of the eSports industry during COVID-19 may well be a glimpse of what we can expect from its future.


One of the eSports communities that has been dealt the heaviest blow by the event abstention has been the fighting game community. Traditionally, games like Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 hold their tournaments and events in person. This is due in part because of technical limitations pertaining to the nature of these games and the expectation of a “frame perfect” and “lag-free” experience by competitors and spectators alike. Since the global ban on events, tournament organizers have had to either completely cancel, incurring massive losses, or adapt and pivot to online. The reception of the latter has been mixed as the experience varies from game to game as some developers have yet to implement better online code in their titles.


Another community that has seen a huge shift as part of the eSports industry during COVID-19 is the Overwatch community. The developer, publisher, and event organizer, Blizzard Entertainment, recently announced that the entire 2020 season of the Overwatch League would be happening online. The schedule for April has already been announced with more dates to be revealed down the line.


The situation undoubtedly has greatly affected the two eSports behemoths of the MOBA genre, Dota 2 and League of Legends. Both games have seen their earlier events of their respective seasons moved online with more to be announced in the future. The League Championship Series, in particular, has been carrying on with online matches to this date.


While many might expect that eSports and games would thrive just as well online as they do offline, one key element that adds to the experience has been lost: in-person audiences. Even in a world of online play, big events count on the hype brought by a stadium or event hall full of fans cheering their favorite teams and players on. Even for audiences watching from home, it’s without a doubt that a part of the experience will be missed as the eSports industry during COVID-19 enters a brave new world.

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