2020 may have been a year that most of us will want to forget, but the eSports industry saw a silver lining as it enjoyed a period of unprecedented growth with higher viewing figures and a bigger public profile caused in part by the hiatus in traditional professional sports activity.
The truth is that eSports has been on the rise for the last decade or more, turning it from a niche concern into a high stakes event industry. Big tournaments like the Fortnite World Cup Finals have seen much more mainstream media attention as well as greater prize money for those involved, with up to $3,000,000 paid out to individual winners of the top games.
And following this period of growing interest, 2020 was a turning point as traditional sports were forced into a period of suspension whilst the Coronavirus pandemic took a hold worldwide. Not only was that a frustration for sports fans, but also crucially for bookmakers, whose revenues were drastically impacted during last spring and summer. To compensate, they put more money and effort into pushing eSports, a market that had been touted as the next big thing in online betting for many years, but had yet to fufill that promise.
Estimates show that eSports betting grew by around 40% in 2020 which went some way to offsetting the losses from traditional events like horseracing, NFL and soccer. In fact, the online gambling industry was also helped by a upsurge in play on online slot games, roulette and live dealer tables as well, as bored punters stayed at home under the various lockdowns in place across the US and Europe.
Bigger Events, More Finance in 2021
The outlook for 2021 is brighter for everyone of couse as new vaccines will prevent the Coronavirus from impeding our sporting activities as players, spectators and bettors. And for the eSports industry, the accidental impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt with improved viewing figures and media coverage.
In 2020 an estimated 12 million fans watched the Canadian EGLX eSports event, held digitally for the first time, and with all lockdown restrictions hopefully lifted by the time 2021’s follow-up rolls around in November, interest will likely be even greater.
And with the increasing profile of big events like these, eSports has now attracted the interest of sponsors like TikTok and Spidertech, huge names with big budgets. Indeed, TikTok have recently signed a partnership agreement with one of the biggest FIFA eSports teams, Tundra. TikTok’s logo will appear on the front of the player’s jerseys, and the platfrom will now feature their own new eSports channel, publishing information, live news and features from events throughout the year.
This is a significant marriage of a new online phenomenon with an eSports organisation, and Jana Ulaite, Head of Brand and Partnerships Marketing at TikTok Europe recognises the importance, saying, ‘Esports has found a natural home on TikTok, with gaming content already proving to be hugely popular in our community. Our users love to share their winning gameplays, rituals and triumphs, while also watching the best in the business go head to head in international tournaments. We can’t wait to see what team Tundra has in store for us in FIFA 21.’
These are exciting times and the eSports industry isn’t one that likes to stand still. Those involved ended 2020 knowing that it has been a massive 12 months for the sport. 2021 will surely be a year when that progress is built upon. With new money coming in, a bigger profile and more interest from the betting industry, we can expect eSports to grow, innovate and attract more players and spectators. The future looks bright.