With major league sports taking a time out due to COVID-19, eSports is now the hottest game in town, according to a new report from Echelon Wealth Partners analyst Rob Goff, who writes that gamblers and casinos are turning to e-sports as a way to fill the void.
The coronavirus pandemic has done a number on many sectors of the economy but perhaps nowhere is more of a ghost town than major league sports, leaving literally billions of fans with nothing to cheer for aside from computer simulations featuring their favourite teams and players and, of course, an end to the health crisis itself.
But where traditional sports are now dark, eSports have become the only competitive field available in the age of social distancing. Worldwide now, people are spending more time playing video games than streaming videos or hanging out on social media sties, a revelation that speaks to the relative immunity of e-sports to COVID-19, according to Goff, who pointed out that Verizon reported gaming peak hour traffic increased by 75 per cent during the first week of lockdown in North America versus a 12-per-cent increase in video watching and no bump for social media.
All of which is good news for the gaming companies, Goff said.
“The growth in the esports is acting as a catalyst for the gaming companies,” Goff wrote. “The increase in gaming related spending is close to online grocers driven by ongoing social distancing norms. We have seen double digit growth in the shares of Electronic Arts (+32 per cent), Take-Two Interactive (+27 per cent), Super League Gaming (+31 per cent), Sea Limited (+42 per cent), Bilibili (+50 per cent) in the last one month.”
Goff said that spending on digital games reached its highest monthly total ever in March, with growth in areas such as premium console sales and PC revenue altogether raising digital games revenue to $10.0 billion worldwide for March, up 11 per cent year-over-year and up eight per cent from February. At the same time, Twitter reported a 71 per cent jump in conversation about e-sports and gaming during the second half of March.
The rise in interest has propelled a number of stocks forward, Goff said, including two small Canadian companies, Fandom Sports Media (Fandom Sports Media Stock Quote, Chart, News CSE:FDM) and New Wave Esports (New Wave Esports Stock Quote, Chart, News CSE:NWES) whose share prices have shot up 5x and 2x, respectively.
At the same time, not all e-sports verticals are performing well, as those such as Activision-Blizzard’s Overwatch League depend on in-person events at arenas for their success.
Still, Goff points to gambling and casino interest in e-sports as another takeaway from the COVID-19 era. As evidence, the analyst pointed to Nevada’s Gaming control board which recently approved wagers on five e-sports leagues and the anticipated bet traffic for the three-day virtual NFL draft 2020.
“E-sports betting has benefitted from both sports postponements and temporary casino closures,” Goff wrote. “The lack of traditional sports betting markets has pushed some bookmakers, including William Hill, into esports as a possible solution to recoup lost revenues.”