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Covid-19

eSports Volatility

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Are Esports Stocks Immune to the COVID-19 Crisis as They Outperform the Market?

 

“Since the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) first emerged in Wuhan, China, in December last year, it rapidly spread globally, with currently roughly 1.8M confirmed cases in 213 countries (as of April 14). In an effort to slow down the spread, most countries released policies restricting social contacts and urging people to stay home if possible. In the wake of public life grinding to a halt, esports and gaming experienced a rapid rise in popularity as many are looking for entertainment. The second half of March saw gaming conversation volume jump 71% in comparison to the first two weeks, according to numbers released by Twitter.

Nevertheless, the esports and gaming industry isn’t immune to the economic symptoms companies worldwide are currently experiencing. No previous infectious disease outbreak (including the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 and 1920) has impacted the stock markets as significantly as the current pandemic due to the policy responses by most governments. In this article, we’re going to look at those companies in the esports ecosystem that are publicly traded and compare them to the general market.

Up to now, the U.S. stock market index Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 34.85% at the provisional peak of the current economic crisis. While the index only represents 30 large stock exchange-listed companies, the ongoing situation is affecting all types of businesses directly or indirectly. In the esports ecosystem, three major trends emerged as companies are trying to adapt to the current circumstances.

 

Trend 1- Cutting Costs

Several esports companies announced that they took measurements to cut costs of operations to counteract the loss of revenues. Team Reciprocity, which is currently looking to perform a reverse takeover (RTO) to become publicly listed on the Canadian TSXV exchange, released all staff. Toronto Defiant and Mad Lions parent OverActive Media also let up to 13 employees go.

 

Trend 2- Going Online

While the games played at esports competitions are natively played online, most large competitions are usually taking place at a physical location such as an arena or a studio. Due to the COVID-19 policies and to protect everyone typically involved in the production of leagues and tournaments, most of those formats have been transformed into online events.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive developer Valve and esports organizer ESL announced an online competition called “ESL One: Road to Rio,” which will be the official qualifier for the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Rio de Janeiro Major in November. Another Counter-Strike: Global Offensive format that was moved to an online format is the DreamHack Masters, which was scheduled to take place in Jönköping, Sweden.

Furthermore, most long-format esports leagues such as the Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, and all League of Legends regional championships such as the League of Legends European Championship (LEC), League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), and League of Legends Pro League (LPL) have adapted an online format as well. 

 

Trend 3 – Sports Joining In

Just as most esports competitions went online for the time being, they were joined by several sports organizations, which turned to gaming competitions and exhibitions to fill the void of sports events.

NBA organization Phoenix Suns decided to continue its regular season schedule by simulating the games in Take-Two Interactive’s NBA 2K game, which the team streams on Twitch. The motorsports organizer Formula 1 established a racing simulation series in place of its regular schedule in which a number of F1 and other motorsports drivers are participating. Additionally, a large number of different sim-racing competitions emerged in recent weeks seeing the participation of racing drivers, athletes, and celebrities, including a multirace exhibition by NASCAR, which is broadcasted on linear TV station FOX Sports.

In general, many entities in the esports ecosystem proved to be capable of adjusting their business operations to the new situation as several of the industry’s niches outperformed the overall market since the end of January when the first cases of COVID-19 started spreading into the western world.

The esports industry is not benefitting from the situation across the board as companies have to deal with the repercussions such as establishing remote work, lack of live-events, fewer sponsorships and media rights sales opportunities, and more. The recent weeks showed that the esports industry is one of the few that by the nature of its infrastructure and product has the possibility to adjust to the current situation, which led to a few players within the industry being able to profit from the current global situation and off certain developments in other industries, especially the sports and entertainment industry.

Nevertheless, certain categories within the esports ecosystem are facing massive struggles such as tournament organizers and esports venue operators as they performed significantly worse than the general market in recent weeks. In addition, many not publicly-traded esports companies, especially startups, are facing existential threats, including a lack of available risk capital.

 

The Outperformers – Lockdowns Boosting Gaming

Following the widespread establishment of governmental guidelines and rules enforcing social distancing, the stop of culture and sports events, the closure of restaurants, retail stores, etc., the demand for gaming as a form of entertainment vastly increased. Reportedly, people are spending 39% more on their gaming hobby currently. Additionally, game developers also profited from a significant increase in media interest in gaming since policies restricted public life.
Several game developers, such as Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft Entertainment, announced in their annual earnings report that they are expecting increased player numbers and revenues due to the COVID-19 situation.

The stocks considered for the game developers category are Activision Blizzard (ATVI), Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO), Electronic Arts (EA), Capcom (9697.T), Konami Holdings (9766.T), Ubisoft Entertainment (UBI.PA), and Nexon (3659.T).

Another category within the esports ecosystem that is benefitting from the effects of COVID-19 policies is live streaming. As people are trying to entertain themselves with few options available, many turned to watching live streams.

According to the quarterly live-streaming industry report from StreamLabs and Stream Hatchet, Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook all saw Q1 2020 quarter-over-quarter lifts in viewership, with Twitch surpassing 3B hours watched in a single quarter for the first time.

After factoring in the full impact of COVID-19, Chinese live streaming platform Huya expects its revenues for the first quarter of 2020 to increase by 45% to 47% year-over-year and representatives stating that the lockdowns and winter vacation in China boosted engagement rates on its platform.

The stocks considered for the live-streaming category are Huya (HUYA), DouYu International Holdings (DOYU), and AfreecaTV (067160).

The current changes in lifestyle caused by COVID-19 policies resulted in short-term increased demand for gaming-related products such as PC components and peripherals. Gaming hardware manufacturer Razer reported that it expects to see more opportunities and growth for its gaming ecosystem due to the “stay-at-home” situation.

The stocks considered for the manufacturers category are Logitech International (LOGI), Turtle Beach (HEAR), RAZER (1337.HK), ACER (2353.TW), ASUSTEK Computer (2357.TW), Micro-Star International (2377.TW), NVIDIA (NVDA), and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

Some of the most prominent players in the esports industry are broad portfolio companies such as Tencent, which is invested in several game developers, esports tournament organizers, and live streaming platforms. Those companies outperformed the general market significantly since late January. 

In March, Tencent stated that it expects revenues from its gaming business to help weather the COVID-19 situation as the millions of people in China self-isolating at home spent an increasing portion of their time on the company’s gaming, music, and online reading services.

The stocks considered for this category are Tencent Holdings (TCEHY), NetEase (NTES), and Sea (SE). 

 

The Underperformers – Imploding Revenues

While several publicly-traded esports and gaming companies outperformed the general market, publicly-traded esports organizations mostly suffer from COVID-19 policies as monetization opportunities became scarce.

Astralis, Origen, and Future FC parent Astralis Group had to reduce operational costs to secure liquidity. The company announced that its management, employees, and most players entered a voluntary agreement to reduce salaries by up to 30% based on salary size.

Unlike the other two companies considered for the teams category, Astralis’ sole business purpose is owning and managing esports teams. Enthusiast Gaming and Simplicity Esports and Gaming have several products aside from the teams they own. Consequently, Astralis experienced the worst stock performance out of the three companies.

Enthusiast Gaming CEO Adrian Montgomery said that his company ended 2019 with $9.24M in cash, which could serve as short-term liquidity in case the company experiences negative impacts from the current global health crisis.

The stocks considered for the teams category are Astralis Group (ASTGRP.CO), Simplicity Esports and Gaming (WINR), and Enthusiast Gaming Holdings (EGLX.TO).

Esports competition stocks took the most direct hit from COVID-19 policies. Allied Esports Entertainment’s HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas was shut down for the time being and Torque Esports’ esports racing arena in Miami, which was initially scheduled to open in Spring, will likely not be opened anytime soon.

All current significant esports tournaments with live audiences have either been canceled, postponed, or moved to an online format. Therefore, organizers are missing out on ticketing, concessions, media rights, and sponsorship revenues.

ESL and DreamHack parent MTG expects its revenues in the esports vertical, which accounted for 40% of the group’s 2019 2019 revenues, to decrease by 35% to 45% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019. The company primarily sees the cause for this decline in a variety of government policies to contain the global outbreak), which had a significant impact on its esports vertical as it is built around live events revenues from media rights, brand partnerships, ticketing, and merchandise sales.

The stocks considered for this category are Allied Esports Entertainment (AESE), Modern Times Group MTG (MTG-B.ST), Gfinity (GFIN.L), and Torque Esports (GAME.V).

 

A Brief Look at Esports ETFs

As industry-focused exchange-traded funds (ETFs) often represent the general development of an industry, we briefly looked into the two ETFs focusing on esports and gaming. Since the beginning of the effects of COVID-19 rendering themselves noticeable on the stock markets, the esports and gaming industry, as represented by the ETFs, outperformed the general market. Especially in the initial recovery phase since March 16, the industry seems to have a significant advantage over the general market.

The ETFs considered for this category are the Roundhill BITKRAFT Esports & Digital Entertainment ETF (NERD) and the VanEck Vectors Video Gaming and eSports ETF (ESPO).”

 

 

Esports Coronavirus Quarantine Indoor Sports

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In the Quarantine Age, an indoor sport seizes center stage

Four men appeared on my television at 2 p.m. in neat rectangles. The backgrounds varied. Barren white walls in one, a few frames in another. A window, some furniture. They all had headsets. One wore a burgundy suit and tie. The others went more casual in the confines of their homes.

The gathering resembled the Zoom video chats we have staged with coworkers and friends since the coronavirus outbreak shut down pretty much everything. But this setting was different than our virtual happy hours and mundane meetings.

It was the broadcast for the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS). League of Legends, a multiple-player online battle arena game developed by Riot Games and released in 2009, is the most popular esports title in the world with up to eight million gamers logging on daily to play on their computers. The LCS, which was created in 2012, is the game’s highest level of competition in North America.

It is also one of the few remaining live entertainment options afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands were concurrently watching the stream, presented by a large mainstream advertiser, State Farm, on Twitch and YouTube. It was back online after a one-week hiatus, pushing forward when much of society had skidded to a halt. The matches, regularly held in West Los Angeles in front of a few hundred fans, were staged remotely.

“We feel like we’re weathering the storm pretty well,” LCS commissioner Chris Greeley said, “but obviously, as it is for everyone, it’s still a storm.”

I’m a casual gamer. Stick and ball sports were my preference growing up, though in recent years my time has been limited to playing shooters online with friends. It’s a social activity, and one of the few available since COVID-19 arrived. After downloading the game on my laptop, I tried following along with the ad hoc broadcast, curious and confused. I didn’t know the rules or the point of the game but, holed up in my apartment, I welcomed the live competition. The pickings have never been slimmer on a Saturday afternoon.

This should be one of the most exciting periods on the sports calendar. The NCAA Tournament going mad, the start of baseball season, battles for playoff seeding in the NBA, the Masters right around the next magnolia bush, even the XFL for a football fix if mock NFL drafts didn’t suffice.

But those events were postponed for the foreseeable future, if not canceled completely, leaving playing video games — and watching others play them — as two of the limited choices left to sate our social and entertainment thirst. As stadiums and arenas go silent, there is a growing din in a corner of the landscape that until now has largely been drowned out by more traditional, mainstream sports.

It’s coming from the more than 150 million Americans who identify as gamers, and not just the influencers who have become wealthy stars: Ninja, PewDiePie, PrestonPlayz, Markiplier. It’s NBA stars challenging each to other to Call of Duty; teens playing Fortnite at 3 a.m. on indefinite leave from school; 9-to-5 workers at home sneaking in FIFA games between Zoom meetings. It’s me.

Esports were built for the quarantine culture because, to some degree, isolation always has been a part of its DNA. And with hundreds of millions now shut in for the time being, an already robust community senses an opportunity.

“It is an absolutely terrible thing that’s happening around the world,” Ryan Friedman said. “Obviously, it’s a huge net negative, but with the cancellation of traditional sports, a lot of people who would have never given esports a chance are going to start at least looking into it and that’s a good opportunity for esports to draw in a bunch of new viewers.”

Friedman is the chief of staff of Dignitas, an organization with teams in various esports acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2016. He is also the younger brother of Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. While Andrew’s team sat idle on opening day last week, wondering if Major League Baseball would have a 2020 season, Ryan’s franchise, one of the 10 in the LCS, stayed busy.

Esports — broadly defined as professional competition using video games — had several major events on the calendar canceled, but most entities have been able to continue competition knowing an amplified audience is available. Evidence of the opportunity is found on Twitch, the go-to streaming platform for casual and professional gaming.

People are streaming and watching streams more than ever since the outbreak began taking hold, according to and TwitchTracker.com and SullyGnome.com, which monitor Twitch audiences. The platform has set all-time highs this month in peak daily active users (22.7 million), average concurrent viewers (1.6 million), and number of streamers (65,000).

“In esports, the show can go on,” esports lawyer Bryce Blum said. “We can transition back to our roots.”

The increase has not, however, been as uniform for conventional esports events. A few esports have seen instant growth in viewers, such as Rocket League and the ESL Pro League, a 24-team Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition that recently enjoyed its most-watched broadcast day in history. Conversely, League of Legends has experienced a year-over-year jump of around 20,000 viewers on Twitch this month, but has seen a dip since the LCS opened its spring season to great fervor in late January.

The industry is nascent but not new with consumers around the world. Money has flooded into the space over the last decade to fuel a booming enterprise that has eclipsed $1 billion globally. And plenty of that capital has been supplied by leaders in traditional sports.

In 2016, Dodgers co-owner Peter Guber and Ted Leonsis, owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals, led a group that bought controlling interest in Team Liquid, recognized as the most successful esports organization in history. Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, invested in an organization and the Golden State Warriors founded one in 2017.

The infusion accelerated the industry’s expansion. Live competitions with massive audiences became common. Events filled Staples Center and Madison Square Garden. Millions of dollars have been awarded to players in different games, and several players boast career earnings of more than $1 million.

In recent weeks, traditional sports entities with esports partnerships have turned to the virtual world after their schedules were abruptly detonated. Leonsis’ Monumental Sports and Entertainment Group recently began airing one-hour video game simulations of previously scheduled Wizards and Capitals games on NBC Sports Washington. Formula 1 ran a race with professional drivers and gamers that aired on Twitch. On Friday, MLB held a tournament with four major leaguers on MLB: The Show 20 and steamed it on different platforms.

NASCAR aired a virtual version of the Dixie Vodka 150 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on FOX two Sundays ago with the participants using racing simulators remotely. The real-life NASCAR racers who participated were not rookies to the platform — racers have used virtual simulators as practice tools for the real thing for years. The results were proof.

Denny Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, edged out retired driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the win in a $40,000 iRacing rig at his house, barefoot with his daughter cheering behind him. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon was one of three people on the call for the 35-car race from a studio in Charlotte. The inaugural event drew more than 900,000 viewers, making it the highest-rated esports television program in history.

On Sunday, Timmy Hill, a 27-year-old pro driver who has never won a NASCAR Cup Series race, won the second virtual race at Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR chief digital officer Tim Clark said the plan is to continue staging virtual versions of its races, following the usual schedule, until its season resumes. As it stands, the on-track season is suspended until May 9.

For its part, the League of Legends Championship Series confronted the coronavirus outbreak like traditional sports leagues, realizing quickly that continuing as usual was irresponsible.

A day after announcing plans to proceed without a studio audience, media and non-essential personnel, the league on March 13 postponed that weekend’s competition entirely. Four days later, the league announced it was going remote for the foreseeable future.

Greeley, the commissioner, said the decision was not easy. In-person events not only make for better entertainment, but better competition. Playing remotely could lead to slower connections, which impacts gameplay. And players are less supervised, opening opportunities for cheating. The league spent the next week devising a plan to limit network issues and rule-breaking.

On Wednesday, LCS announced the rest of the season, including the finals, which originally were scheduled to be held in a 12,000-seat stadium at the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility in Frisco, Texas, April 18-19, would take place online.

“We can play from home,” said Steve Arhancet, co-owner and CEO of Team Liquid, the reigning LCS champions. “That makes us a much more resilient entertainment industry when it comes to competitive sports.”

The 10-team LCS returned from its one-week postponement with five matches. The battles comprised Week 8 of the competition’s spring split. A team named Cloud 9 won both of its matches, improving its league-best record in the march toward a $200,000 prize pool to supplement player salaries that average more than $300,000.

 

Esports In Quarantine

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Online IGEC panel: “Esports in quarantine: how to survive the new normal”

Our annual esports networking conference, IGEC (Inven Global Esports Conference), has been postponed in order to adhere to social distancing and flatten the Corona Virus curve. In place of an in-person IGEC filled with panels and talks, we are moving to a digital format to keep our readers and panelists safe amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Our first panel of many more to come is the unavoidable topic everyone must face: “Esports in quarantine: how to survive the new normal”.  This panel discussion will address the unease and worry surrounding esports, especially with regards to freelancers, esports organizations, and tournament organizers.

This panel is scheduled this Friday, March 27th at 2:00 PM PST.

The participants

Inven Global’s Director of Corporate Strategy, Nick D’Orazio will be moderating the upcoming panel. As a veteran esports journalist, event producer and panelist, Nick is leading Inven Global’s digital pivot into the new quarantine normal.

How will esports survive when all of our major events are canceled? What are the habits, tips, or methods being used by industry leaders to adapt to a new work-from-home lifestyle? Lastly, what does esports and gaming career advice look like during a global pandemic?

These topics and more will be discussed by our diverse panel:

Scott Adametz serves as the Esports Tech Lead at Riot Games. Over the past decade Scott has launched national media networks for FOX, Big Ten & Pac-12 Conferences. He joined Riot Games, developers of League of Legends and operators of 12 professional leagues, 3 years ago.

As the Esports Tech Lead at Riot Games, Scott specializes in developing new media workflows, finding unique solutions, and advancing broadcast technology. He supports a global team of engineers that support thousands of events across our Esports regions including marquee shows: All Stars, MSI and Worlds. Current projects include supporting development of a fully-remote broadcast production model, ensuring global competitive integrity and maintaining our global Esports infrastructure.

Scott is an award-winning innovator, self-starter and team builder with a passion for innovative live, scalable solutions in production environments. Over the past decade he has launched national media networks for FOX, Big Ten & Pac-12 Conferences. His specialties include developing media workflows, finding unique solutions and, through innovation, enabling the cost-effective production of over 9000 live events to date.

Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez is an American Street Fighter player and the man behind one of Twitch’s most popular emotes, PogChamp. He is a long-time veteran of the fighting game community (FGC) and leads his team at Cross Counter TV to make incredibly authentic content to his passionate audience.  Always planning ahead for the next opportunity withing the FGC, Gootecks has strong opinions on what aspiring esports workers need to do in order to make.

Trisha Hershberger is a popular figure in the tech, gaming, and entertainment industry as a host and content creator. Trisha has previous experience being a panelist at popular conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con and being a moderator at last year’s IGEC.

Like most, Trisha has adapted to COVID-19 and its effect on the industry and will share her techniques and experiences to those interested in a similar career.

Freya Fox is a freelancer who is affected by the cancellation of various gaming events such as E3 due to COVID-19. As an influencer across social media such as Instagram, these events are vital to creating content for her fans. Freya’s offers a unique perspective from a dedicated freelancer who has made a living working in esports and gaming and will share her thoughts on how the industry should proceed moving forward.

 

eSports Readies To Shine

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eSports readies to shine as everyone else presses pause

It happened for them the same way it happened for everybody else: They first wondered whether the looming threat of the coronavirus would mean they would have to do events without an audience.

They were worried mostly about travel at first and making sure crowds were smaller than 250 people, as initial recommendations suggested.

The world of esports was just like everyone else. For weeks, the realities of what COVID-19 might reap on the United States seemed inconceivable until reality crashed down on the entire United States — particularly the sports world — all at once.

“If you had asked me two weeks ago where there was a world where we would play fully online competitive matches for the LCS, I would’ve laughed at you,” said Chris Greeley, commissioner of the League of Legends Championship Series, “but when your options become something that’s bad and something that’s worse, bad looks pretty good.”

What was thought of as bad for the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) just 10 or so days ago is now an enviable position for most sports league to look longingly at. This weekend, the LCS and the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) will resume play from a series of remote locations after just a one-week hiatus for the coronavirus.

In the next few weeks, the Overwatch League (OWL) is set to return to action after a brief hiatus of its own. The Call of Duty League (CDL), which also has a Boca Raton-based team, and the NBA 2K League also expect to resume play in upcoming weeks playing from remote sites after suspending play for COVID-19 concerns.

While the rest of the sports world sleeps for an increasingly uncertain length of time, esports has been able to adapt to our new crowd-controlled, self-isolated way of life by taking its biggest games out of the arenas and to the place most of them originated: the internet.

“This is,” said Ben Spoont, CEO of Boca Raton-based Misfits Gaming, “the beauty of esports.”

Pressing pause

It was less than two weeks ago when Greeley told the LCS management team there was “no way” the league would play games away from the Riot Games studio in Los Angeles. Even when nearly every other sport was suspending play March 12, the LCS instead announced it would play its matches without fans in attendance. All 10 teams in the LCS are situated within about a three-mile radius of Riot, the developer of “League of Legends.”

A day later, the LCS decided to suspend play, although Greeley quickly noted the league already was looking into remote play for the remainder of the spring schedule. It took just a week for the LCS to return to action.

“There’s no pandemic playbook,” Greeley said.

Although esports are unique in their ability to hold remote play like the LCS will this weekend, there were no contingency plans in place for this to ever be necessary. Once the idea of playing games in an arena with no fans started to inch toward reality, the LCS started to think about how it could potentially take the whole league online if need be.

Initially, the plan was to have teams gather at their headquarters and for Riot to send referees to monitor each team. The teams could be together in small groups to communicate without much significant contact with the outside world.

In the last day or two, those plans changed, too. Instead, players will play from their own homes and broadcasters will broadcast from theirs. Everyone will log in to Riot-authorized Discord servers to communicate and matches will broadcast on a delay to prevent cheating. At least this weekend, there won’t be any remote interviews or video of team celebrations. “It’s going to look like League of Legends circa 2012,” Greeley joked.

The OWL and CDL — including the Florida Mayhem and Florida Mutineers — will operate similarly. While concrete plans have not been put in place for the Mutineers of the CDL, the Mayhem will gather at Misfits’ Boca Raton headquarters once its schedule resumes March 28 with a game against the Washington Justice.

OWL and CDL both stream matches exclusively on league YouTube channels, while the LCS and LEC stream matches on Twitch.

Activision Blizzard had an ambitious idea when it announced the OWL in 2016: It would use a traditional sports model with franchises representing individual cities and states. With the NBA, NHL and MLB all suspended, Activision Blizzard’s grand experiment will be put to the test.

“Nothing else is happening, so when you think about professional sports and who’s representing Florida right now, it’s the Mayhem and the Mutineers,” Spoont said, “so we think it’s a great chance for folks to learn about us, to learn who we are, to learn what we stand for.”

Pros get in on the action

It had only been about an hour since the Miami Heat played its final game before an indefinite hiatus when Meyers Leonard was back to work.

“Ladies and gentlemen, how are we doing? This COVID-19 stuff is absolutely crazy,” the Heat post player said to his growing audience on Twitch as he booted up “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.”

“Somebody in my chat said you better not leave this stream for the next 10 months,” Leonard joked.

In the nine days since the NBA suspended play, Leonard streamed himself playing “Call of Duty” on Twitch for more than 50 hours.

“Now all of a sudden every basketball player is a professional gamer,” Spoont joked. “It’s definitely an interesting time for us.”

Spoont, who grew up in Boca Raton and went to the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, co-founded Misfits in 2016 with fellow South Floridians Mitchell Rubenstein and Laurie Silvers. Initially, the organization was based out of the United Kingdom and its “League of Legends” team still competes in the LEC. In 2016, Misfits acquired an “Overwatch” team, which became the Mayhem in 2017.

In January, it debuted the Mutineers as a team in the CDL’s inaugural season. The organization has moved its operations to Boca Raton and got the OK to build a permanent headquarters there in February, and the Mayhem even changed its jerseys and avatar skins to be “Vice” style this season — pink and blue.

eSports has always been comfortable with its massive, niche audience. Without any sports alternatives, eSports has arrived at a chance for its biggest mainstream platform yet.

“That’s kind of the void that we’re looking to fill,” Spoont said. “Obviously, this is very trying times for a lot of people and a lot of industries. We as an industry in gaming can do our part to fill a void, to provide entertainment in the safety and comfort of people’s homes. It’s pretty cool what we have the opportunity to do.

“People are going to be playing massive amounts of video games over the next months. … We’re very humble about the fact that we’re going to provide a lot of entertainment for folks to consume, and we’re excited to do that for South Florida and having the Mayhem and the Mutineers represent them.”

 

Sports Esports Content Covid 19

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Traditional sports relying upon esports during COVID-19 crisis

You could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve wandered into an alternate universe since the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19. It’s a pandemic that has taught us just how unprepared we were for a disease to spread with such speed and reach, and virtually everyone stands to be affected in some way. And the world of traditional sports, often a welcome distraction during times of economic turmoil or political unrest, has been hit just as hard as the rest of us.

Fortunately, despite the cancellation of leagues and tournaments across the globe, sports is finding solace in its younger brother: esports.

An unlikely alliance

Esports has been far from sports’ biggest ally during its burgeoning growth across the last few years. An ageing audience has left some major sports with stagnating viewership, especially across the US, as leagues fail to catch the attention of younger fans; which is precisely the demographic that is turning to competitive gaming for their entertainment. Yet now, esports is providing a welcome reprieve for sports teams and players that are struggling to provide content during the current crisis.

Of course, esports itself is hardly unaffected; there’s a growing list of tournaments and events (including our own ESI New York) that have been affected by the virus. But competitions and influencers alike are returning to the roots of the industry and streaming online, allowing fans stuck at home easy access to a constant flow of entertainment.

Sports bodies have been catching on. Perhaps the best example is Formula One, which recently announced intentions to launch a sim racing series. The Virtual Grand Prix Series has seen a number of current F1 drivers compete on F1 2019, alongside guests from esports and gaming. Its reveal follows confirmation of similar events from NASCAR and the Supercars Championship, with teams and drivers going head-to-head online.

Racing is almost the perfect match for such a crossover; technology has become so advanced that professional drivers can use simulation racing to accurately practice for major races in a safe (and relatively inexpensive) environment. But it’s far from the only sport to use esports as an outlet during the downtime created by the ongoing pandemic.

NBA side Pheonix Suns tweeted that it would play out the rest of its season on NBA 2K20, broadcast on Twitch. Monumental Sports Network and NBC Sports Washington announced plans to broadcast Washington Wizards’ NBA and Washington Capitals’ NHL games through NBA 2K20 and NHL 20. And a mega 128-team FIFA charity tournament is set to take place, inspired by a viral campaign from Leyton Orient’s social media manager.

So what do sports broadcasters, operators, teams and players stand to gain from gaming?

Quite a lot, as it happens.

The show must go on

First and foremost, sporting bodies are searching for a way to keep up fan engagement during an otherwise dead period, until the world can recover from the crisis caused by COVID-19. If they can fill feeds through some light-hearted competition, providing positive content amidst the stress of a pandemic, what’s not to like?

Of course, online play can also be utilised as a marketing method. Remember that ageing sports audience? Teams and players can reach more eyeballs – and perhaps even attract more fans – by appealing to younger viewers in their natural (virtual) habitat, through platforms such as Twitch and YouTube.

Additionally, streaming can provide a way for clubs and leagues to show off their sponsors; if they can’t meet planned obligations, they can potentially still maintain good relationships with partnered brands by creating additional content outside of traditional competition. Whether your jersey is real or digital, it can still have the same logos plastered over it.

The benefits of sports’ forays into esports go both ways, too; when sports entities head to streaming platforms to play games, they could well be enticing new players and viewers to different games and esports titles. For simulation games such as F1 2019, NBA 2K20, NHL 20, and FIFA 20, that extra exposure could have a real, lasting impact on esports league viewership.

Right now, as the sporting world struggles, it makes sense for these two industries to collide. By why shouldn’t this convergence continue into the future?

If this crisis has taught us anything about esports, it’s the industry’s resilience. No matter the state of affairs in the world, as long as there’s a reliable internet connection, you can bet someone will be gaming through it.

Hopefully, the companies and individuals that populate the sports industry have learned something, too: esports is a valuable tool, and it should be used as such, to supplement the content that can be created through social media and traditional broadcasting, and to reach a wider audience. And it is here to stay.