The coronavirus pandemic has been terrible for the sports most of us love. The NCAA basketball tournament was canceled. The MLB season is delayed along with The Masters and Wimbledon.
One sport is doing quite well though. Esports is actually bigger than ever.
At any given moment, millions of people around the world are watching people play video games. Someone's always playing something on Twitch, the leading video game streaming platform. Fortnite, football, Call of Duty and fans are watching.
They're not just playing for fun, it's their full-time job. The best earn over $100,000 in sponsorships.
"Before you had the top 10 guys making the money, you’re starting to see money now filter down to the top 100, top 500," says Gary Gillies, an esports blogger who runs his own company, InkedIn.com, to cover the big business of betting on e-sports. "As the big brands fight for sponsorships and the top guys are already taken, they have to move down the chain," adding it is the same as in any sport.
Even before the pandemic, esports had a huge fan base. The streaming website Twitch, where most live games are played and viewed, reported that in 2019, there were over 1.5 million people watching at any given time. And over the course of the year, people watched over 600 billion minutes of video game playing.
Gillies expects that will jump considerably after traditional sports fans have discovered watching someone play a video game, is more interesting than they might have thought.
"I think this just puts the accelerator on it much quicker. Now companies are going 'we’ve got to get involved more, we’ve got to make this happen.' So I think in the next year you will see even more of a shift toward esports," Gillies said. "I think the top players will be earning in the millions."
Video gaming has been a viable career path for many young adults. The combination of the pandemic, isolation and going on three months without pro or college sports on TV. More viewers are looking at esports and the sponsors and money are following.