Market Overview

Esports, Gaming Thrive, Adapt As Nation Grapples With Pandemic

Esports, Gaming Thrive, Adapt As Nation Grapples With Pandemic

Cautious optimism is starting to bloom in the esports and gaming industries after COVID-19 nixed most live event plans in recent weeks. After many conventions and tournaments shut their doors, most businesses have been licking their wounds while trying to adapt to the sudden changes brought by a pandemic.

Reverting to an online platform for events was a punch to the gut for businesses and organizations that had already mapped out stadium events. Yet the cancellation of traditional sports has opened a huge door of opportunity. 

Now esports are thriving under the spotlight.

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, people are being urged to stay in their homes and limit in-person activity. Outdoor activity is being abandoned for a login screen. Gaming and social content will accelerate over the next 30 days, and the numbers are already rising. 

Steam hit an all-time concurrent user peak with over 20 million logins. Games like "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" set a record with over 1 million concurrent players.

It's the first time the title has hit these numbers since its 2012 release. The surge in digital activity isn't just attracting new players —attracting more spectators, and the curiosity surrounding esports is starting to rise.

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Races, Basketball Games Move Online

After the NBA crumbled beneath cancellations, the Phoenix Suns found a new way to continue the season. The team plans to play out the rest of their season through "NBA 2K."

NASCAR also jumped in with a broadcasted eNASCAR exhibition race, where popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished in eighth place.

After gauging the success of the exhibition race, NASCAR partnered with simulation racing platform iRacing to launch the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. The competition will pull in racers from the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

"Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun and competitive experience on race day," Ben Kennedy, NASCAR's vice president of racing development, said in a statement. 

"Our long-time partners are iRacing offer an incredible product and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing."

Formula 1 racing is also taking advantage of the digital platform. 

"We sat down together and thought people will be without a Formula 1 race and sport in general, and they will be staying at home trying to avoid the coronavirus, so where better to put on a race than online?" said VeloceEsports founder Jamie MacLaurin. 

What The Esports Leagues Are Doing 

New leagues are accompanying other established esports events.

Major esports leagues such as the Overwatch League, Call of Duty League and CS:GO's new FLASHPOINT League are all shifting into online tournament formats.

Each match will be broadcast live for viewers on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch.

More people will find ways to digitally tune in. On streaming platforms such as Twitch, the percentage of spectators has already dramatically escalated, particularly for games like "Fortnite" and "Call of Duty," which just released its own battle royale Warzone.

Activision (NASDAQ: ATVI) revealed that the new free title attracted 6 million players. It's also most-watched on Twitch over "League of Legends."

Streamers are experiencing sudden growth, and others are jumping into gaming chairs to capitalize on the opportunity.

Athletes such as Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic have already begun showing interest in streaming their favorite games, at least until live events return. 

While esports and gaming might be fulfilling entertainment needs, other gamers are finding ways to directly combat the coronavirus.

Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) is asking PC gamers to help with the fight against the outbreak by donating unused GPU clock cycles.

PC gamers can donate spare clock cycles' graphics cards to a globally linked network of PCs. This essentially creates one massive international supercomputer that can be used to research the coronavirus and potentially find a cure. 

"Fortnite" screenshot courtesy of Epic Games.


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