La Liga FIFA 20
The current global lockdown situation has drawn more people toward streaming platforms and esports but La Liga was beating records left and right with their FIFA 20 charity tournament that gathered over 1 million viewers for just one weekend! Many streaming platforms were used including YouTube, Twitch, and LaLigaSportsTV. Nineteen players from Spain’s top-flight took part in this competition on March 22nd while some games even got televised. Some consider this a turning point for esports and gaming in general.
The soccer season is suspended and no one knows how long this suspension will last but tournaments like this one have shown that esports can be much more than just simple entertainment. The tournament was formed in partnership with the Spanish banking group Santander which is the sponsor of LaLiga while EA Sports was also involved. The final match between Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio vs Leganés player Aitor Ruibal was viewed by more than 170,000 people worldwide. The final result was 4-2 in the favor of Real Madrid’s player. La Liga is still looking at the numbers and trying to figure out the total reach of the #LaLigaSantanderChallenge hashtag that was shared by influencers, players and clubs on Twitter.
This was not the only event that got the attention of many viewers on the internet. Formula One and NASCAR created their own streamed events during the same weekend. Formula One’s Bahrain Virtual Grand Prix was viewed by 289,000 concurrent users on average, and the peak viewership count hit 359,000 viewers. That included 199,000 on YouTube, 180,000 on Twitch, and 18,000 on Facebook. The event was televised by Formula One’s TV-partner SkySports but their numbers are yet to be revealed.
Could Televised Esports Become a Standard
The recent spike in numbers can be explained by the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 but, at the same time, it was an opportunity for many new viewers to understand the value behind such tournaments and events. There are a few key factors that will determine the future of esports going forward.
With FIFA 20 tournaments the excitement isn’t really the same as watching an actual competitive match. There are many unrealistic scenarios that can happen and most soccer fans don’t really enjoy watching pixels moving the ball left and right on the screen. Another issue is that pro soccer players aren’t that good at video games. This amateur level of gaming (that isn’t always the case) can drive many newcomers away from this form of entertainment.
Driving simulations, on the other hand, are a completely different story. Formula One games and titles like Gran Tourismo and Forza Horizon are pushing realism to the very limits. Many scenes from this game, when shown to someone who isn’t familiar with esports, can seem exactly the same as the real thing. Racing games have evolved drastically over the past few years, and this evolution in graphics and realism could be the tipping point for global adoption of esports.
Prize pools for many tournaments have gone through the roof. Dota 2 fans have seen huge increases year-by-year. The International 2019 had a prize pool of $34,330,069 and even more is expected for the years to come. These prizes come from fans that make purchases through Steam but if we want to attract more talent to other genres we will need advertisers. Some have already joined but most of them are appealing to the younger audience. Unless esports finds a way to entertain the older generations, we will have a hard time collecting funds for prize pools because advertisers will have no incentive to participate in such events.
Esports Betting Can Be a Solution
Over the past months, we didn’t only see an increase in viewership. Since almost all spot events have been canceled globally, bookkeepers have turned to esports as an alternative stream of income. In the absence of major soccer and basketball leagues, the worldwide audience had a chance to introduce themselves to esports betting. Since it isn’t different from traditional betting, it could serve as an entry point for a bigger and wider audience globally. Betting has been the driving factor for many sports events, leagues and competitions. It is very reasonable to expect the same for esports in the near future.