How Sports (Mostly Esports) Have Capitalized on the Quarantine

By Morgan Alley
Almo Pro A/V

With most of our industry cooped up at home in quarantine, it feels like we hear about video games every single day. If you’re working from home with kids, you’ve probably heard them talk about a sweet new Minecraft build, the new League of Legends meta (still hoping for AP Blitz to be a real thing one day) or some co-worker to co-worker smack talk about 3v3 gunfight in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (I’m looking at you, Todd Heberlein). While traditional entertainment experiences are closed down, online esports tournaments are exploding in popularity.

Call of Duty Modern WarfareCall of Duty has gone so far as to add drop-in tournaments every five minutes and organizations like Nerd Street Gamers have moved its traditional in-person tournaments to an online structure. As game studios, tournament organizers and fans alike shift their habits, so too should our industry. As such my wonderful team here at Almo, organized another webinar via our partners at rAVe and Panasonic. If you missed last week’s webinar and couldn’t make it onto our second showing this week, check out the video on demand here! Angie Greene (Almo business development manager), Gary Kayye (Director at THE rAVe Agency) and Stephen Milley discuss the market.

NASCAR 2020One of the biggest pieces of esports news, coming in the wake of COVID-19, is a surprise to many and a pleasant reminder of what those “in the know” have seen coming for years. NASCAR announced a shift from physical in-person races to an all-digital esports model. That’s right — NASCAR is still running races and was ready to switch its model in the blink of an eye. For traditional NASCAR fans, this is an unexpected respite from the doom and gloom being pumped into their daily lives. For those of us keyed into gaming, we’ve heard stories of Gran Turismo and Forza (Playstation and Microsoft’s flagship driving simulators) drivers being given “IRL” (in real life) racing careers for years.

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But it isn’t just NASCAR that is crossing into the esports world: The NFL, FIFA and NBA are all leveraging their relationships with EA and 2K Games to continue providing fans with unique and engaging crossovers with their esports league counterparts. As we have discussed in prior webinars and blog posts, this cross-pollination is not unique to the COVID-19 crisis, though it’s certainly been accelerated by it. But it’s part of a larger trend that these organizations are adapting to as people change the way they consume entertainment, spend their free time and connect with each other.

The takeaway from this story for me is that there are already audiences ripe for changing their viewing patterns. It isn’t just hardcore gamers that are primed and ready to accept modernized variations of traditional entertainment. Kids watch beautiful, high-definition animation from Pixar and Disney, while dad may be watching the next box office CGI-fueled Marvel film. In today’s day and age, everyone is comfortable engaging with digital media.

Not that long ago it was passé for adults to love superheroes or comics, but today Marvel tops the box office, and grownups proudly sport Star Wars t-shirts. It may seem niche or not be your particular taste (to each their own) but it isn’t going to just be Call of Duty and Overwatch succeeding. This seems to be even more true as my generation comes into being parents. Part of why we love watching the NFL is that we live vicariously through superhuman athletes. When people my age start having kids and stop having as much time to play games, esports will fill that spot for a huge number of people.

You don’t have to love first-person shooters and MOBAs to engage in esports! Keep an eye out for our next webinar where we will dive deeper on hardware.