COVID-19 pandemic modifies eSports Leagues in Mexico


TheCOVID-19 pandemic modified eSports Leagues in Mexico, such as the Latin American League of Legends (LLA), which moved from Chile to the country and began the first year of a three-year project.

Mexico's esports arena. Photo: El Sol de Mexico
Mexico's esports arena. Photo: El Sol de Mexico

In February, the most important eSports championship in the region inaugurated the Arena Esports Stadium in Mexico City, with an investment of $2.5 million dollars in an alliance between Riot Games (developer of the League of Legends), one of the most important television channels in the country and a chain of movie theaters.

With capacity for 100 people, the venue where the LLA would have an audience for the first time in all its phases, was only used in the first four weeks of Apertura 2020, which began in February and ended in May, as the coronavirus forced the competition online.

In the 2020 Clausura, which began on June 20, they will also not be able to use the property at least during the group phase that ends on August 9. According to a calculation made by Efe, Riot Games will no longer receive only $17,083 at the box office. COVID-19 also forced the American company to cancel two massive finals.

As well as not holding any live events, the LLA experienced its most-watched tournament, but its teams suffered in signing up players and others like XTEN reduced their budget by up to 80 percent.

The Rainbow Six Siege Mexican Championship was scheduled to be held in 2020, when it will be played in its second season, and will be a face-to-face event, joining the LLA as the only ones in Mexico to play all phases with an audience. Due to the pandemic, this plan did not happen and Ubisoft, owner of Rainbow, will seek to achieve its goal in August, during the second half of the tournament or in 2021. The teams, by not making the move to the Mexican capital, will receive only 50 percent of the budgeted support from Ubisoft, while the developer will no longer receive $3,527 in ticket sales.

The League of Legends (DDH), the most successful Mexican eSport tournament in the world, had to suspend two face to face finals, the last Apertura and the Clausura. These events are the only ones in the year of the DDH that bring the community together live, and without them, the second division of the video game will lose $17,991 in tickets alone.

The first edition of the Free Fire League Latin America had to suspend its final, leaving the champion and the US$52,000 bag that would be distributed among the teams unattended. The final would be held in Mexico City, in a venue with a capacity for 1,500 people, which would leave a profit of US$7,937 on ticket sales.

Esports market in Mexico

Mexico is consolidating as a huge market for the development of eSports, although it still has enormous growth opportunities compared to other more developed countries, according to industry experts.

Forecasts estimate that in five or ten years, eSports will surpass sports like Mexican basketball, explained to Efe Jordi Funtanet, partner of Capitanes, a team from Mexico City that participates in the National League of Professional Basketball (LNBP) and has also bet on growing eSports.

Latin America has 45 million eSports viewers with a market that this year has generated profits of $32 million dollars, being Mexico the second country that generates more audience in the region behind Brazil, according to data from the consulting firm Newzoo. The electronic sports market generated in 2019 worldwide more than one billion dollars and it is estimated that in 2022 will reach 1,790, according to the same consultant. Compared to basketball, the LNBP league had in the 2018-2019 campaign a total of 29 million spectators with about 1 million people attending the stadiums.

The new gold mine

In the last two years, sales of video games for consoles and other devices grew by almost 30 percent, according to the Newzoo consulting firm. Electronic sports or eSports have become so important in Mexico that they now generate profits in the country of around 1.8 billion dollars a year.

According to Newzoo consulting firm, the Mexican market is among the 15 most important globally in profits for the eSports industry. Photo: EFE
According to Newzoo consulting firm, the Mexican market is among the 15 most important globally in profits for the eSports industry. Photo: EFE

In this country, soccer is the most popular sport according to a survey by the firm Consulta Mitofsky in its latest poll published in mid-2019. The Global Games Market Report of the specialized firm says that in the last two years the revenue in the country from the sale of games in this segment, for consoles and other devices, grew almost 30 percent.

Unlike traditional video games, which also include sports-based games, eSports consist of professional online competitions with teams of dozens of players. Today, there are about 60 million users in the country engaged in this activity, and the number is growing steadily, which has been attractive to the sports industry.

In its survey on the habits of Internet users in Mexico, the Internet points out that the number of Internet users in the country grew by almost 13 million in two years, and with them the proportion of online players. Between 2016 and 2018 (latest data from the study) online games went from 18 to 28 percent in the proportion of internet use among Mexicans.

According to the Mexican consulting firm The Competitive Intelligence Unit, 70 percent of fixed console users in the country connect to the Internet when playing games and, of these, two out of every three do so to interact with other people remotely. This growth in the eSports industry in Mexico is due to maturation in the segment that has been going on for just over two decades.

eSports are not new in Mexico. Since the end of the 1990s, several developments and distribution companies were already organizing tournaments as part of the indoor sport. However, the connectivity that exists today has massified this discipline to the extent that many young people are interested in becoming professional players or commentators of this branch.

Are esports sports?

Nowadays, electronic sports or E-Sports are manifestations of communities that not only seek to have fun, but to be the best in the game in which they compete.

E-sports are any professional or semi-professional competition that includes the use of video games within an organized, regulated competition that promotes a competitive community.

Over the years, communities that wanted to compete and show who was better within a game, led to approaches from brands or game developers that take specific elements for competitiveness and make very dedicated games specifically designed for e-sports.

Video games were evolving from entertainment to a specialization, because as the games advance, new techniques to beat your opponent start to appear, even in the neighborhood arcade machines. Therefore, strategies and discipline are components that are beginning to characterize competitive activity.

Nowadays, the variability of competition in the video game itself must be equal for everyone, this means that if several people are going to compete, the skill of the players must be the one that determines the victory and the defeat, and not the random element of the video game, like the purchase of a skill.

A brief history of esports

One of the first records of the use of the term "sport" dates from the late 1990s. In 1999, Matt Bettington, a journalist with the British video game news site Eurogamer, compared electronic sports with traditional sports in a press release on the launch of the Online Gamers Association (OGA).

Although the term eSports was coined in the late 1990s, there is no consensus on the exact date when this social activity was born. The first known video game tournament took place at Stanford University in 1972, where a group of five students competed in the game Spacewar to win a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. In 1980, the Atari video game company organized a Space Invaders video game tournament, which attracted 10,000 people, making it the first mass event for this type of activity.

The development of the Internet and the need for content that would fill this new media made electronic sports begin to take on the structure with which we now know them. According to Michael G. Wagner, a researcher at the Danube University Krems, in Austria, from the '90s onwards, eSports took two routes of development: a western and an eastern one.

Wagner states that, in the United States and Europe, eSports were consolidated in tournaments from the publication of first-person shooting games such as Doom (1993) and Quake (1996). In Asia, and more specifically in South Korea, eSports was one of the contents that took more impulse as a result of the public policies that the country implemented to deregulate telecommunication operators, which triggered the growth of broadband networks.

By Mexicanist