If 2020 is anything for the world of sports, it is the year that made the whole industry stop–literally. Almost all major sporting leagues–from basketball to football to baseball to cricket to hockey–were put on a hiatus as a part of the precautionary measures in prevention of the further spread of COVID-19. However, as the old saying goes: when one door closes, another one opens. Even though sports stopped for a while, people still managed to enjoy it through an alternative means–virtual sports.
Even bettors who are into betting on sports such as football betting or cricket betting discovered virtual sports and how it can bring the same level of fun and entertainment as that of traditional sports. Now with all of these things in mind, one might ask: will virtual sports soon replace traditional sports?
Rise in the times of the pandemic
Virtual sports, in the most simple way of defining it, is the way a computer program mimics the way a real-life sport is played. There are two ways that this can be understood. One is the type of virtual sports that are stream on most online sports betting sites–these are virtual games that have no branding, nor the real-life team or player reference, and are made entirely just for the site or app to have something for players to bet on. Another type would be video games based on real-life sports or leagues–Formula 1 games, EA Games’ NBA, NFL, and FIFA titles, for example.
So, how did virtual sports managed to get as big as it is now? As it trunks out, it served as a newfound yet related interest for those who are already into sports in real life.
“The demographics of these fans largely resemble those found in traditional sports,” explains Kelvin Watt, a managing director at Nielsen Sports, which is a global analytics and insight provider to the sports industry. “People who would ordinarily be watching Formula 1, for example, have had their interest piqued and are streaming live racing. Having real drivers like Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on board helps. We’re excited by this as it is an opportunity to grow the market.”
If sports betting sites virtual games are bringing in money through player bets, another sub-sector of this industry, esports, is helping in making it bigger and more relevant.
Esports, or the competitive manner of playing video games, also gives in a huge contribution to the status of virtual sports, in a way that it brings in a huge amount of following and monetary revenue as an alternative way of consuming sports. Just this year, the expected revenue from the entire esports industry–that is., across all games in all platforms–exceeds $1 billion. This is a combination of actual game sales, merchandise revenue, microtransactions revenue, and other miscellaneous income from popular titles.
Should live esports events took place this year as originally planned by a lot of major esports leagues, revenue was seen to be at more than $1.6 billion.
Will traditional sports die out?
Despite the strong footing that virtual sports and esports are in right now, no one is seeing traditional sports dying–at least not in the foreseeable future. After all, virtual sports became a thing because of traditional sports. Additionally, once the theta of the pandemic normalizes and people get back to their normal lives, they would always want to get back and watch real games.
If anything, virtual sports is meant to boost the sports industry, not to replace it. It is meant to give people more way to enjoy the games and sports that they love and enjoy it the way they would prefer it.