As sports across the globe come to a standstill and teams struggle stay afloat and find ways to keep their fans entertained, millions of viewers are tuning in weekly to live matches in the form of Esports, and New Zealand needs to jump in.
The various Esport leagues around the world have found ways to continue their competitions, away from the big live arenas, but still streaming their matches to audiences across the world on YouTube and popular game streaming platform Twitch.
Companies such as Mastercard, Nike, Puma and many more are benefiting from their early gamble of diving into the Esport market, with their brands still on show for the millions of viewers tuning in.
While Europeans and Americans have major Esport leagues in place for games such as Counter Strike, Dota, League of Legends and FIFA, New Zealand is lagging behind in the Esports game.
I was hooked after watching a mid-season championship game between North America's top team Team Solo Mid, and Europe's G2 Esports. It was a back and forth game, that was decided on the barest of margins.
The hype of the commentators, the cheers of the crowd and the emotions of the players captured me, much like my beloved football team Arsenal captured me many years ago. I was hooked.
According to statista , an estimated 1.57 billion people were reportedly aware of esports in 2019, with a 13.8 per cent growth in the number of viewers from the previous year, which translates to 335 million viewers tuning in.
I don't think it is because New Zealanders are against Esports, but more because much like with rugby and football, we need to highlight the players that New Zealand already has overseas championing the country's Esport talent, and also promoting it further here.
The TAB is one organisation that has recently adapted to the Covid-19 situation, opening online betting for Esports including NBA, Counter Strike and League of Legends.
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From Hamilton, New Zealand has one of Oceania's top League of Legend's players Quin Korebrits. Tauranga is home of another one of the league's talents, Ryan Short, both representing New Zealand for their respective teams in the League of Legends Oceania Championship.
There are many more New Zealand Counter Strike, Fortnite, Dota and FIFA players out there, but we hear little of their success overseas.
While mainstream sport clubs plan for what awaits them when Covid-19 stops dominating the headlines, more organisations such as universities should be aiming to promote Esports more as a pathway.
LetsPlayLive operates New Zealand's first Esports Studio in Auckland out of SkyCity, while last year the University of Waikato led by its Esports coordinator Tom Featonby opened up its OMEN Arena, allowing students to come together, form teams, and provide infrastructure for them to compete.
Featonby previously told the Hamilton News that OMEN Arena, and Esports is allowing a once wide gaming community come together and interact more with one another, helping break down the social isolation walls.
Esports isn't just about pressing buttons on a keyboard or controller, there is a high degree of learning that comes with it.
The learning of strategies, playbooks and also maintaining your body physically. For the teams, they can adapt virtually, and it is allowing them to now get ahead of mainstream sports.
There are a huge variety of games to choose from, making Esports one of the most inclusive sports out there. New Zealand viewers can tune into the Riot Game Oceanic Twitch channel this Friday to watch the end of the regular season, and some New Zealand players in action. It's time for New Zealand to fully embrace it what Esports has to offer.