5 Ways COVID-19 Affected the Esports Industry
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March 22, 2021

5 Ways COVID-19 Affected the Esports Industry

It’s over a year since the pandemic struck, and many industries were affected. The esports industry hasn’t been spared either. But unlike most sectors that plummeted because of COVID-19’s impact, the pandemic has catapulted esports revenues, user engagement levels, and market outreach.

5 Ways COVID-19 Hit Esports

Accelerating growth comes despite the cancellation of several live events and tournaments. So what are the top five ways the pandemic affected the esports industry?

Increased Livestreaming

A PWC report shows that over 67% of under 35-year-olds streamed various esports titles during lockdowns. Newzoo also showed that the number of esports fans grew during the pandemic as more streamed via YouTube and Twitch.

From social distancing to lockdown regulations, the pandemic forced many people to spend more time indoors. With these regulations coupled with the cancellation of traditional sports competitions, fans switched to esports to continue enjoying the thrill of sports, albeit this time within the walls of their homes.

Steady and Rising Revenue

Newzoo estimates that the esports industry will reach $1.1 billion in 2021 and more in the next three years. While nations canceled live events, esports companies like Riot Games, Activision Blizzard, Epic Games, and Valve took things online. COVID-19 boosted the popularity of esports pushing user engagement and live streaming to the sky.

Tencent’s revenue for online games rose by 31% in the last quarter and Nintendo reported record profits through online sales. Ostensibly, the pandemic catalyzed the growth of online esports. It enabled esports companies to get a formidable income stream besides sponsorships and advertising.

Increasing Popularity

Even before the impacts of COVID-19, the esports industry curve was on an uptrend. As people spent more time indoors and sports companies push for digitization of their games, various esports titles like League of Legends, CS:GO, VALORANT, Call of Duty, and more increased in popularity.

To fill in the gap from the cancellation of sports, broadcasters showed live esports events and tournaments. NASCAR’s iRacing Series recorded up to 1.3 million viewers as other sporting sectors like MLB and MLS eye esports opportunities.

Lost Revenue Channels

While there was an overall increase in growth and revenue in the esports industry, COVID-19 disrupted live events. Tournaments like the 2020 Fortnite World Cup, The International 10, and other key esports events got canceled. Fan gatherings at TwitchCon and BlizzCon also saw changes with BlizzCon moving completely online.


Recently, Activision Blizzard announced it was laying off 50 employees in departments dealing with live esports. Speaking to Bloomberg, the company’s spokesperson said that COVID-19 sped up the digital transition and helped players connect online.

The digital craze drove esports into the mainstream, spiraling it into a central form of entertainment. COVID-19 shifted ticket sales from the arena to the internet. While the pandemic led to declining sponsorship and broadcasting revenue for the esports industry, it greatly boosted the popularity of titles and improved digital revenue for most companies.

Written by Daniella Johnson

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