- Lockdown has fuelled short-term growth for esports, while devastating real sports
- But the video-gaming boom is likely to continue after the pandemic, as traditional sports leagues invest in esports to draw in younger fans
Ibai Llanos is not like other football pundits. The 26-year-old social media star has little professional experience in the sport; instead, he rose to fame commentating on video-game tournaments, known as esports.
But Llanos was the voice that Spanish football fans heard when they tuned in to last week’s clash between local rivals Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao, the first La Liga match to be shown live on Twitch – an Amazon-owned (US:AMZN) video-streaming platform that usually broadcasts esports competitions.
The decision by Spain’s top football division to hand match coverage to Llanos, who has 5.7m followers on Twitch, was the latest sign that sports leagues are increasingly worried about losing the next generation of fans; they know that many kids today are more interested in professional gaming than football.
Although watching other people play computer games may not seem entertaining to most, there is a rapidly expanding market for esports. In 2019, about 443m people watched esports across the world, according to data provider NewZoo. Most of them were under the age of 35.
Growth in the sector has only accelerated during lockdown, as people kill time by playing and watching video games. Typically taking place in huge stadiums in front of