The NHL, MLS, CFL, NBA, and MLB are all on hiatus as part of North America’s collective effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Another wildly popular sector of competitive entertainment is similarly affected by the coronavirus, although it’s receiving less attention from the mainstream media.
That’s eSports, the high-stakes world of competitive video gaming.
In some ways, the virus and the measures people are taking to #FlattenTheCurve are actually a boon to the industry. Kids are staying home from school and there many of them are spending their time playing videogames online. (B.C. closed all K-12 schools earlier today.) But in other ways, the eSports industry is taking hits just like other major competitive leagues.
Last weekend, the online gaming and distribution platform Steam set an all-time record for concurrent users. More than people logged on within a 24-hour period, according to the Verge. That article notes that there were no notable game releases last week that might account for the bump.
So, with schools closed, bars and restaurants limiting services, and movie theatres sitting empty, more people are playing videogames online. But the coronavirus has brought challenges for the eSports industry, too.
Online gaming has breached the real world. Tens of thousands of people gather in stadiums to watch videogame tournaments together. One of the largest of these events was held in Vancouver in August 2018. The International, as that tournament is known, put more than $30 million in prize money up for grans and drew several sell-out crowds to successive days of competition at Rogers Arena. And these types of events that draw crowds together to watch videogame competitions together have largely been postponed or cancelled since coronavirus closures began taking effect.
The online magazine eSports Inside recently collected a roundup of events negatively affected by the virus and containment efforts.
Call of Duty League, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Overwatch, FIFA, and the Rainbow Six Siege Pro League Season xI Finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil, among others, have all seen major disruptions due to the coronavirus, it’s detailed there.
While most eSports live events have been postponed or cancelled, industry publications predict COVID-19 containment efforts will result in still-higher numbers of gamers spending time online, and that Steam’s 20.3 million concurrent users is a record that will be broken again very soon.