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Esports are already online (obviously), but the pandemic is still creating huge challenges

2021/05/14

Golf, basketball, hockey and other sports have all suspended their seasons. Major league baseball says it may start up in late spring. But competitive video gaming  is going strong as esports tournaments move their operations completely online.

Some companies, including the Electronic Sports League, Riot Games and Activision Blizzard ,resumed their competitions online after pulling events in the US, Europe and Asia with a brief hiatus or no delay.
"It's pretty incredible that both Overwatch League and Call of Duty League will be the only city-based leagues still fortunate enough to operate in this current environment," Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports, said in a statement to CNN Business.
    "I miss traditional sports, like we all do. At the same time I'm proud our leagues can compete online," he said, noting that Call of Duty League is still delayed but will be back online "soon." Activision did not comment on the delay.
      Esports experienced a 37% increase in the average number of viewers per tournament last quarter, compared to the same period last year, according to Stream Hatchet, a video game analytics company.




      "The changing environment is turning both consumer and advertiser attention toward the gaming video content space, with esports being part of this," said Nicole Pike, managing director of Nielsen Esports.
      Pro athletes are spending more time playing and streaming video games, and the US Navy recently launched an esports team called "Goats & Glory." (The United States Naval Academy's mascot is Bill the Goat.) The US Army and the  US aIR force already have esports teams.
      "With esports being a billion dollar industry and millions of consumers, it was definitely a space we wanted to get into," Captain Matt "Smoke" Boren, chief marketing officer of the Navy Recruiting Command, told CNN Business. "At a time where a lot of people's activities have been disrupted, [sailors] can't do face-to-face team activities anymore. It's just a safe place to go to."
      Esports have long copied the playbook of traditional sports, organizing glitzy  in-person events that emulate the Super Bowl and the Olympics. Some are now canceled.

      In February, an Electronic Sports League event ran without a live audience due to concerns by state officials in Katowice, Poland about coronavirus. "We suddenly had to scramble and tell everyone, 'Don't come,'" said Craig Levine, global chief strategy officer of ESL (Electronic Sports League).




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