COVID-19 hit the world hard and affected just about every major form of entertainment. Since the cancellation of major traditional sports, esports has adapted to thrive in the hard times.
In April, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) accepted nearly every major esport into their catalog of wagering. In the United States. The first esports to receive recognition were the longstanding Dota 2 and CS:GO.
On Apr. 15, the NGCB approved four major esport leagues to add to its roster of sports open for betting. Whether this was a planned endeavor for the year or an adaptation, it signifies that the times are changing. The first to receive recognition was the Overwatch League, and wagers can be placed on Head to Head matches, individual matches, and the grand finals. The 2020 North American League of Legends Championship and the League of Legends European Championship are also open for wagers similar to the Overwatch League. Just a day after, the Call of Duty League was added to the Board’s wager list, joining shooter CS: GO.
This major shift to incorporate esports into the gambling ecosystem that Nevada has built puts these titles on par with traditional sports and entertainment. One of the notable success stories in these trying times is that of Nascar and iRacing. The COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world halted nearly every traditional sports league. This opened a unique opportunity for esports to thrive as a mainstream form of entertainment.
Esports on TV
As major television networks broadcast more esports events, the American population is becoming normalized to esports. Fox and ESPN have hosted numerous esports events including the Overwatch League, Nascar iRacing, and numerous sports-related events through their gaming counterparts. In a world where raceways sit empty, Nascar has put together an event to broadcast the sport to millions, all through a video game.
Champion Cup driver Jimmie Johnson is one of the racers competing in the Richmond Virtual Nascar event on Sunday, April 19. In a statement to Nascar about the transition from the asphalt to simulation, he described his transition to do what he loves and entertain his fans.
“But to see the viewership numbers and understand how much fun the fans are having watching it, it has motivated me and has me highly interested to keep it going. As we look around and see other sports try to figure out how to virtually offer something for their fans, we were one of the first, if not the first, to do it and do it well and break all kinds of records in the process.”
New Fan Base
The new eyes on the world of esports may not transfer over to titles such as League of Legends or CS:GO. Diversifying the esports fan base across numerous titles and genres is a key to success for the digital medium. Esports has a unique opportunity in 2020 to make an impact and dominate the market due to the absence of nearly every prevalent form of live entertainment and competition.
Activision Blizzard had huge plans for their esports titles in 2020, introducing a live event format for matches. When COVID-19 became a global concern, the homestand tournaments were canceled, but matches moved online. Other titles like League of Legends and CS:GO have resumed their schedules simply hosting matches in an online format.
Image via: Action Network