The Esports and Gambling Industries In 2021: Popular Games & Continuing Trends

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Online entertainment has always been common among so many people around the world, but even more so in 2021.

As much of the population has needed to spend more time at home, people have turned to the internet to stream TV shows, shop online, connect with family and friends, and find new forms of entertainment.

With much of 2020 focused on the global pandemic, people had to practice social distancing and some businesses had to close, forcing many land-based casinos to close their doors. On the other hand, online casinos were able to stay open to provide adult players with virtual betting and esports betting options.

In 2020, online gambling was on a significant rise. While the cancellation of sports postponed many types of sports betting activities, esports was able to carry on almost as normal, as professional gamers could still take part in competitive gaming tournaments virtually instead of in person.

Now that there is so much technology available to use, from fast Wi-Fi to gaming computers, home-based production setups and more, esports was able to continue relatively unaffected (compared to other industries) last year. At least on the online tournament side of things.

Adapting to a different year of esports gaming

As 2020 was an unconventional year for many industries, a lot of sectors had to embrace digital and virtual methods more – and start to adapt to remote working. While many companies may have already had a digital aspect to them, last year proved that they had to rely on technology even more.

Many live esports tournaments that were used to bringing in hundreds of fans each year had to think of alternative ways to host their events. Esports gaming companies like Rektglobal and their London Royal Ravens team had to adapt by taking part in online-only formats of the CoD League rather than have fans attend their live in-person homestand events, for example.

Tournament organisers also had to adapt and learn quickly last year. Many had to change to a full online setup in order for their tournaments to go ahead, as social distancing or usual crowd numbers were not feasible in 2020. For tournaments like the FIFA eDivisie, more time and effort had to be put into esports match organisation, locations had to be transformed, and players had to be managed from a distance.

According to Nerd St. Gamers CEO, John Fazio, last year also saw the relationship between sports and esports fans adapt. They told Esports Insider that they saw a new wave of fandom enter the space as their primary competitions were shut down.

As sports fans were at some points unable to watch their favourite traditional sports team, they craved to watch other forms of competitions, like esports. While usual sports betting/in-person betting was halted, esports betting could still continue with tournaments that were being held virtually.

Games that were the most popular last year

Over the past few years, esports tournaments have been catching everyone’s attention with their huge prize money figures. In 2019, there was around a 30% jump in figures as prize money for the whole year totaled around $211 million. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, takings were of course a lot less in 2020, with around $65.5m of prize money over the year instead.

In 2020, Counter Strike: Global Offensive had the biggest total prize pool with $14.75m. Despite having a lower prize money figure than the previous year, CS:GO is still a long time favourite FPS game that takes the top spot.

Other popular games that came in The Esport Observer‘s top 10 esports games of 2020 by total winnings, were Dota 2, League of Legends and Fortnite, among others. For Dota 2, in 2020 the prize money had a significant difference from the previous year with only $8.87m in 2020 compared to the previous $50m in 2019. That’s because The International was postponed, as was the Fortnite World Cup.

Other popular games by prize pool in 2020 were:

● Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – $6.27m
● Rainbow Six – $5.02m
● Overwatch – $4.36m
● PUBG – $4m
● Hearthstone – $3.73m
● Rocket League – $2.63m

Growth of online gambling

The huge rise of esports has also given people a whole new level of online sports gambling, with high stakes tournaments still available to bet on all around the world. While some traditional sports tournaments in football, tennis, and more, had to be postponed or cancelled in 2020, sports fans could still turn to esports to watch competitive video gaming tournaments instead. The F1 Virtual Grand Prix gave racing fans a decent alternative form of entertainment, for example.

Sites such as LeoVegas not only offer sports betting for traditional sports, like football and cricket, but also esports tournaments too. For games such as League of Legends, online players can bet on available tournaments that center around various aspects of the game, such as various game objectives.

The accessibility of esports helps to create many opportunities for a variety of companies and fans. In 2020, many people have had to rely more on fast internet connections and technology, from video call software to instant messaging applications.

Technology like this, for example online comms platforms like Discord, has helped professional gamers and tournament organisers communicate, run live streams, and draw in an online audience. This in turn has also helped online casinos and sports betting companies deliver esports betting that sports/game enthusiasts can access.

The esports audience numbers continued to rise

In 2019, esports was measured at around the $1b annual revenue mark and still continues to grow, with audience numbers also getting bigger year on year. With traditional sports tournaments cancelled or postponed in 2020, and with many people spending more time at home, audience numbers rose even further. According to data from Newzoo, the total esports audience globally in 2020 was 495m, up from 443m in 2019.

For the IEM Katowice esports tournament, although the event had to be held online in 2020, audience numbers were still very high and thousands of hours were watched across the competition. Over the course of the competition around 18m hours were watched in total and the final match of the tournament peaked at 1m viewers.

With platforms such as Twitch becoming more popular, there are now millions of streamers and audience members using the platform to watch playthroughs, live streams and esports. Numbers of esports viewers on the platform are predicted to carry on rising, with games like Fortnite, League of Legends and Valorant being among the most popular games viewed in 2020.

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