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The pandemic's effect on Esports

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended all areas of life, and Esports was no exception to it. Social distancing measures have had a significant effect on all areas of our lives, including traditional sports fixtures. But, did they have a great impact on Esports events too? 

It is a well-known fact that the coronavirus pandemic was the main reason for canceling many professional leagues in traditional sports. Even the Summer Olympic Games, an event widely considered to be the most watched, has also suffered and been pushed back a year. With that all being said, the main question remains: Did the coronavirus pandemic leave the same devastating consequences in the Esports scene? 


As you can see from the graph, Esports didn’t suffer much of an impact. In the period of the first seven months of 2019, Esports had 237 tournaments hosted in the four biggest titles - Dota2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends and Overwatch. On the other hand, during the same period in 2020, there were 205 tournaments held. The main reason for the numbers being high for 2020 is that Esports, as opposed to the traditional sports, can be played online. 


If we take a closer look, we can easily see that all big LAN tournaments were canceled. Esports had the luxury of keeping the show going online. Of course, we can’t say that everything was the same as it would have been if the games were played in a LAN environment, but at least the competitive side of Esports didn’t have to face all the difficulties that the traditional sports leagues faced. The limitation of online games is that the teams from different continents can’t play against each other, while that’s not the case when the matches are being played offline. Therefore, most of the competition was split by continental regions, while tournament operators divided the prize money according to the region’s size and importance. 


To dive more into the details, we have also prepared a graph with the numbers of played matches in the same period of 2019 and 2020. As a reminder, this compiled data is taken only from the four biggest Esports titles - Dota2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends and Overwatch. 


This year, so far, there has actually been more played matches than in 2019. However, the result of this comparison can still be misleading. We should take into consideration that the biggest Esports events such as The International, The Worlds, and CS:GO Majors were all cancelled or postponed. Normally, the Esports calendar is mostly pre-set, which means that there is not enough room for small tournament organizers to squeeze in their competitions. But, with all the Major players canceling their LAN events, there was enough space for many others to step into the pool and get themselves on the map. We must clarify that canceling one of these big LAN events doesn’t necessarily mean that only the finals are not being played. On the contrary. If we take The International as an example, there are plenty of pre-qualifiers and qualifiers being played before the final participants’ list is determined. 


Moreover, it is quite important to state that some of the Esports titles have open and closed circuits. Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are considered to be more open towards various different tournament organizers, where in the end anyone is free to host their tournament and be featured by the game developers, whereas League of Legends and Overwatch are more closed. They have their pre-set network of regional tournaments where all of them are eventually leading towards the final and the biggest tournament of the year. 


With all of this being said, we will present you a comparison between the games in the same period of time. 


In these difficult times, the ability of traditional sports to bring people together is missed now more than ever. However, we can conclude that Esports is a safe way to bring people together and keep them entertained. Even when traditional sports players are limited to what they can do, Esports competitive players can still stay safe in their familiar locations and do what they are best at – play video games competitively and maintain the constant development of the whole industry moving forward. 


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