Esports has gained a higher profile among the general public during the COVID-19 crisis, with viewership and participation both up. Some mainstream sports fans have turned to esports for entertainment or wagering due to the lack of any other sport to watch. Athletes from traditional sports have helped generate awareness during their leagues’ hiatuses by playing for charity in well-publicized competitive video gaming tournaments. And the total number of hours spent watching video games being played on Twitch and other platforms (including both esports and other gaming content) was up 99% in April compared to the same month last year, according to StreamElements and Arsenal.gg’s State of the Stream report.
Hand-in-hand with this growing prominence over the past three months has come a proliferation of licensed product and representation announcements:
- Gen.G, which has nine esports teams in the U.S., South Korea, and China, signed Puma for apparel and other merchandise.
- Esports organizer ESL, represented for licensing by Beanstalk, signed Gunnar Optiks for gaming glasses.
- Panda Global, an organization focused on fighting games, signed HyperX as its partner for gaming eyewear.
- Astralis Group signed hummel, a Danish brand, for sportswear tied to two of its teams, Future FC (which plays FIFA 20) and Origen (League of Legends).
- FACEIT, an esports platform, partnered with Visa and Gazprombank of Russia for debit cards.
- ENCE, which has teams playing Counterstrike: Global Offensive, Starcraft II, and League of Legends, among other titles, extended its agreement with Logitech for additional peripherals.
- G2 Esports, which has teams playing in Fortnite, Sim Racing, and five other leagues, retained Brandgenuity as its global licensing agent.
- Magic Gaming, the NBA 2K team affiliated with the NBA’s Orlando Magic, paired with RIOTORO for peripherals including mouse pads, headsets, keyboards, and earbuds.
- The League of Legends Championship Series partnered with Secretlab for gaming chairs.
Many of these products are authorized within the context of broader promotional, marketing, or sponsorship deals, as has been traditional with esports agreements to date.
Lucrative live esports events—key tournaments and championships are typically held in physical arenas—have been cancelled this spring. As a result, Newzoo, in a report published in May, revised its forecasts of the size of the global esports market for 2020 from $1.1 billion to $1.05 billion. That includes a decrease in ticket and merchandise sales—NewZoo does not break out merchandise alone—from $121.7 million to $106.5 million. (Revenues from esports streaming are expected to be up for the year.) The researcher noted that the sector’s live events have moved online—where the bulk of the esports action exists already—and while revenues are down, both supply of and demand for esports content remain strong.