Impact assessment: Covid-19 and esports

7 May 2020

In a special edition of Bayes Esports Solutions' weekly fixture list, lead project manager Wolfgang Siebert examines the disruption caused by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis on esports, and just how successful efforts to shift action online have been.

Novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has the world in its grip. Precautionary measures such as social distancing have put a stop to nearly all sporting events, to the point that esports are being talked up as a replacement for viewers and operators, with the sector apparently unscathed by cancellations and lockdowns.

For Bayes Esports Soutions’ Esports Directory, we collate fixture information for roughly 2,500 matches each month. This has given us a detailed insight into the esports ecosystem’s handling of this exceptional situation.

Looking at the top three titles in esports - League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) - we notice a very stable baseline in February of about 78 fixtures a day. The esports action reaches a peak on 15 February, with 155 matches on that day.

By that date, Covid-19 was already casting its shadow over some of the Asian events such as the Legends Pro League and League of Legends Champions Korea. However most European and American players had plenty to with which occupy themselves. Events running at the time included League of Legends Championship Series, League of Legends European Championship and their Academy Divisions as well as the qualifications for ESL One Los Angeles and Flashpoint Season 1.

Yet by the final week of February it was clear that something had shifted. IEM Katowice - the world championship for CS:Go - was held in front of empty seats. The authorities had not allowed the audience to enter the venue.

In the following days, more and more offline tournaments were delayed, postponed and eventually cancelled as organisers began to adjust to the new normal.

While the first two weeks of March actually showed 30% more fixtures than the previous two weeks, many of them were getting cancelled.

By 16 March, the pandemic had fully arrived in esports. In the two weeks between 16 March and 29 March, fixture numbers dropped to roughly 50 a day. That is about half of what would have been expected under normal circumstances. Only competitions held entirely online - usually considered lower tier because of smaller prize pools and less prominent teams participating - were still taking place.

During this time, tournament organisers were scrambling to repurpose their events as online competitions. In addition, new tournaments and series were created to cover for the canceled  events. This resulted in fixture numbers rebounding in April to nearly 70 a day, but with a different composition.

While 424 fixtures were held in top-tier tournaments in February, by April there were only 299 fixtures at this level. In the minor tier, however, the number of fixtures rose by over 50% from 684 in February, to 1038 in April.

Even though the monthly number of fixtures for the big three titles dropped slightly by about 10% from February to April, we have seen a clear rebound, driven by the change in channel.

Tournament organisers are clearly making good use of that unique characteristic of esports -  being able to hold fully fledged competitions without athletes and audience sharing the same space - to the best of their advantage.

Stay safe and game on!

Scroll on to see the full breakdown of the week's CS:GO and Dota 2  fixtures for the week from 7 to 13 May.

This list is not yet exhaustive, and may be subject to change. Find out more about the Esports Directory here.

Bayes Esports Solutions is the go-to provider for the esports data sector - for data right holders, consumers and service providers alike. The Berlin startup has developed BEDEX, the world’s first independent esports data marketplace for In-game data.