esports are back!

3 May 2021

Global economies are reopening, and Esports are back!

Major event prize pools were a bit meagre without the massive crowds in 2020, but sponsors and developers are expected to start providing bigger prizes throughout 2021.

2020 was a challenging year for business, even industries mainly operating online like gaming. Many industries like hospitality and leisure faced complete shutdowns and financial ruin due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gaming industry has always operated online but still needed to adapt by moving competitions online drawing quieter crowds than their in-person events. Surprisingly, the gaming industry worldwide grew by nearly 20% in 2020, largely due to people stuck at home and unable to work. Gaming fans worldwide are looking forward to the massive in-person events they regularly enjoyed before governments began enforcing social distancing measures.

Major event prize pools were a bit meagre without the massive crowds in 2020, but sponsors and developers are expected to start providing bigger prizes throughout 2021.

A somewhat surprising surge in mobile gaming in 2020 has led to a greater corporate interest in mobile esports. Although mobile gaming has always played second fiddle to PC and console games, it seems people stuck at home quickly turned to mobile games to escape the long boring stretches when they were unable to work. 

Mobile Esports

Some of the most-watched esports tournaments in 2020 were mobile games: Mobile Legends, Free Fire and PUBG Mobile (although League of Legends did take the number 1 spot).

All three games hosted tournaments with over 1 million live viewers, comparable to an average premier league football game, which garners an average viewership of about 1.5 million people

Plenty of game developers have built mobile versions of console and PC games as either an accompaniment or a standalone game - Call of Duty and Fifa, for example - but some of the most popular esports in 2020 were purely mobile games like the battle royale-style game FreeFire.

Free Fire was released in 2019 and quickly became the most downloaded mobile game worldwide. According to Escharts, Free Fire was the third most-watched mobile Esport, behind PUBG Mobile and Arena of Valor, and has a daily player base of more than 80m people.  

Sports corporations are joining with developers to bring bigger, better esports events. 

Global brands like Red Bull, Intel and Comcast have sponsored esports teams and events for quite some time already.

More and more companies see the same potential, particularly those involved in traditional sports like football or car racing.   The F1 esports scene has recently seen the likes of Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari sponsor esports teams. The esports drivers for the Ferrari esports team train alongside real racing drivers at the official Ferrari training facility, called the Ferrari Driving Academy.

Similarly, premier league football clubs like Manchester City have taken an interest in Esports by sponsoring some of the top players to participate in paid events and represent their brands.

Some commentators have speculated the increasing interest in esports from global sports brands is due to the ageing fan bases of many traditional sports like golf and basketball.

Some clubs, like Shalke 04, are sponsoring teams in esports with nothing to do with the sports usually they are usually associated with, like League of Legends, and are increasingly seeing esports as a way to protect against declining fan bases and lower profits.

New games are crashing onto the scene and shaking the esports tree

Many long time fans of CSGO and other first person shooter games regularly express their dissatisfaction with the developer's uninspired updates and never-ending (and expensive) DLC releases.

The genre’s titans haven't had serious competition for a while, so developers haven't needed to innovate much.

But that could all be changing this year.

Riot Games, known for developing League of Legends, recently built and released Valorant, which could soon contend with first-person shooter esports like CS:GO and Call of Duty.

Valorant’s developers remarked that Valve (CSGO's developer) had left itself in a weak position by focusing more on skin releases than meaningful upgrades to the game.   Developers planned their first event before releasing the game, which was called First Strike and happened in December 2020 and was a huge success. There were more than 300,000 live viewers and over 2 million hours watched by fans.

Even before its release, the game was popular; an average of 3 million players logged on daily during the beta.   Considering Riot's history of success in the esports world (putting it lightly), it seems a safe bet to say Valorant will enjoy at least some degree of esport success, as they can count on an enormous loyal fan base consistently playing for the foreseeable future.

Must-see events coming up in 2021

You can expect to see in-person events making a comeback toward the end of 2021, with Dota 2, Counter Strike, Fortnite and League of Legends likely to draw the biggest crowds.

The largest Fortnite tournament is called the Fortnite Champions Series, which started on February 4th and will run through the year with commentary in English, French, German and Spanish. Epic, the game’s developer, has stated the prize pool will be around $20 million.

The International is Dota 2's biggest event, which will take place in Stockholm, Sweden, in August this year. The prize money is usually jaw-dropping - in 2019, it was $34 million - but it's not yet known how big the pool will be in 2021.

ESL Cologne is the next big CS:GO event (there are a few smaller ones), which will occur in July and offers competitors a prize pool of $1million. The event is scheduled to take place in a studio format (with the teams in isolation), and the first live event is expected to be IEM Winter in December 2021, although this is subject to change.

Riot hosts the Leagueof Legends Worlds tournament sometime in September this year, although the exact date isn't yet confirmed. The tournament finals will take place in Shenzen, China, and Riot have speculated the event could be the biggest esports tournament ever - although you could argue they have to say that! 

If you're interested in earning money in gaming tournaments, you can register for the beta below.

Register for the prototype

The next step on our roadmap is to ask for your help. We want to hear from you what works and what does not, which features are more important to you and which ones are lacking. In short, we need your guidance.

To facilitate this, we are creating a beta of our platform and are looking for a thousand pioneers to put it through its paces. We will expect a lot of feedback and suggestions from these pioneers over the next two to three months. However, these pioneers are not volunteers, when we launch each pioneer will have bestowed upon them 10,000 edifyqs.

If you see yourself as a pioneer, register for the prototype and explore the future.

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