The global coronavirus crisis shows no signs of abating, with people around the world struggling to come to terms with lockdown conditions. It is a difficult time for everyone, with people like sports fans forced into finding new hobbies.
One area that has seen a lot of growth in recent months is the world of esports. Competitive gaming can be dated back almost 50 years, but esports are expanding rapidly right now.
With no real sports available to be watched at the present time, many sports fans are turning to esports for the first time.
And while there is no real substitute for real-life action out on the pitch, games might not be able to resume for many months. So esports may just be the next best thing that is available now.
But how did esports step in to become so much more important during 2020? Let’s take a look.
Mainstream success has been coming for esports
While the coronavirus crisis has sped up the increasing popularity of esports, this is something that has been on the cards for some time.
Technology is now at a level where most people already have everything they need to get involved in esports, whether that is a decent standard PC or a games console such as the PlayStation 4.
The phenomenal popularity of Fortnite and its main rival PUBG has therefore been one of the things needed to take esports on to the next level. A game that is simple to pick up and play but tough to master, Fortnite has a young audience despite its battle royale format.
When 40 million players entered the first ever Fortnite World Cup last year, it was a 16-year-old American who came out on top to claim the top prize of $3 million.
Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf’s success at the tournament earned him an appearance on The Tonight Show, while his victory made headlines in the media all over the world. Suddenly, esports were having a moment.
There is no doubt that esports are well placed to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis. People can take part in esports events from the comfort of their own home, or just choose to watch live tournaments through streaming sites such as Twitch.
There were over two million people tuning in when Bugha saw off strong competition to win the inaugural Fortnite World Cup.
Can esports ever replace the thrill of live sports?
Sports fans might be cynical about whether esports are really a viable alternative. But when you are sat on your sofa contemplating another weekend without live sport, they might appeal more.
The esports industry is working hard to make the most of the opportunity presented by the pandemic. FIFA 20 is not yet considered to be one of the leading esports, but football stars such as Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander-Arnold were recently persuaded to sign up for the first ever ePremier League Invitational tournament.
Representatives of all 20 Premier League clubs took part in the event, with players taking on celebrities including Josh Franceschi from You Me At Six and Tom Grennan at FIFA 20.
Further esports events on games like FIFA 20 are likely to follow suit as people get used to the social distancing and lockdown conditions that are preventing live sport from being played.
Comparing esports to real-life sport is perhaps unfair. But there are plenty of benefits to getting involved in esports. The top tournaments offer huge prize money, while playing esports with friends can be a social experience to help people to get through lockdown.
There is no doubt that esports are here to stay and will continue to grow in popularity in 2020.