Esports explosion could change sporting landscape post COVID-19

Many traditional sports fans have been looking for their sporting fix during the COVID-19 outbreak and the virtual world has come to the party. 

Esports has benefited from the global break in sporting entertainment, providing a platform for the likes of the NBA, IndyCars and Supercars to whet the appetite of fans. 

Some of the biggest names in sport are picking up the controller.

The likes of Kevin Durant and New Zealand's own Scott McLaughlin's endorsements are perhaps the biggest evidence esports is booming through the coronavirus pandemic.

"Gaming is a great medium to kind of break down the barriers in the sense of hey 'I can sit at home today and compete on the exact same racing course as Scotty McLaughlin and maybe Scotty McLaughlin can play me'," Duane Mutu, NZ Esports Federation boss told Newshub. 

With traditional sports networks like Sky Sport and ESPN currently resorting to replays and fan-voted events,  it's no wonder esport is on the up as viewers crave something competitive and fresh.  

"There's a lot of people who are 18-24, which is your core demographic, that may not like gaming, but they would know what it is, and now they're being bought across by these big superstars, and that is quite cool," Mutu said. 

The accessibility of punting is having a similar effect on esport.

The NZ TAB are now offering odds on the likes of global gaming titles like Rocket League and Dota 2. 

Punters can simply jump on the TAB phone app, go to the esport section, bet and watch.

Its inclusion is also bringing in a new type of customer -  longtime esport fans.  

COVID-19's impact on esport is also opening the door for the country's top players. 

Sim racer Matt Smith has visited Tokyo and New York to take on the world's best in online racing. The new interest in his passion means the prospect of going professional is within reach.

"There's one Aussie guy, Daniel Shield, who I raced against a few years ago," Smith told Newshub. 

"He went over for a season and drove for Mclaren in the F1 esports and yeah - it was fully paid. 

"It's totally insane how much it's taken off."

With last year's Fortnite World Cup winners leaving nearly NZ$5 million richer and the acceleration of interest, it's certainly interesting times for all involved, in what is quickly becoming, the world's most accessible sport.