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COVID-19: how is esports coping compared to traditional sports?

Esports Setup
Wednesday, 08 April 2020 By Daniel Kozelko

Covid-19 has brought the world of traditional sport[1] to a standstill. From cancellation of major leagues across the world to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the virus has been relentless[2]. Esports has not been immune to Covid-19’s reach. Cancellations of major tournament events have come thick and fast[3], as have closures of esports teams’ headquarters and community centres[4].

However, unlike traditional sports, the shutters remain up on much of the industry. In recent days online streaming platforms such as Twitch have reported massive increases in user streaming hours[5]; online games platforms such as Steam have reported record numbers[6]; and, importantly, much tournament and competitive play has gone online[7]. Large players in traditional sporting industries are already turning to esports: see, for example, Formula One, which has recently launched the Virtual Grand Prix Series[8]. Governments are also getting involved, with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry proposing an initiative to lift the esports industry in Japan[9].

Much of this is supported by the crucial distinction between esports and its traditional counterparts. Whereas the latter requires numerous people to be present in the same place, usually in close proximity, esports is digital at its core. As was recently reported by Forbes, Nicolas Maurer (CEO and Co-Founder of Team Vitality) explained:

From a content and events perspective, the beauty of esports is that it’s a digital first product. Physical contact isn’t needed between players, and they don’t even need to be in the same country to compete. Live events are cancelled, and rightfully so, but unlike other industries the lockdown doesn’t mean we, and players, can’t keep producing content. Our priority is providing the community with our favourite form of entertainment in these difficult times.[10]

While esports shares a number of Covid-19-related difficulties with traditional sports, there are also points of distinction. This article seeks to flag some of these interesting distinctions. While it focuses on the law and restrictions imposed in the England, it is of equal application in other countries enforcing Covid-19 related lockdowns.  Specifically, it looks at:

  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020;
  • The effects of the restrictions on tradition sports and esports; and
  • The consequences of the restrictions.

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Written by

Dan Kozelko

Daniel Kozelko

Daniel practises from 39 Essex Chambers and has a particular interest in eSports issues.

He has significant experience in commercial and civil disputes. This includes assisting in multi-million pound contract and construction claims in the High Court, in arbitral proceedings, and appearing in the High Court on civil and regulatory disputes.

Daniel also has an interest in disciplinary proceedings, having worked on a number of matters for a variety of regulators. Daniel is an avid gamer, with a particular interest in MMORPGs, grand strategy, and FPSs. He looks forward to bringing his gaming knowledge to eSports and video game disputes.

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