The ongoing pandemic has led to a change in the business models and operations of virtually every sector and industry on a global level. As people have been restricted from going out of their homes, companies and businesses whose revenues rely on people stepping outside have been battered, while those who were able to pivot quickly and effectively to online forms of service delivery have been able to survive and even thrive. One of the best examples of this can be seen in the gambling and casino industry, where, with land-based casinos having shut down to comply with government restrictions, many gambling providers in New Zealand and elsewhere have gone online. New Zealand online casinos have seen a big increase in demand, with many thousands of people signing up to play casino games online as they cannot visit the physical casino anymore. This may even be a sign of a change in the sector, as it is likely that people will retain this affinity for online casinos even when regular casinos are able to reopen, and so it is important that casino operators adapt to this new reality.
The same story can be seen in multiple other sectors, where the internet has helped them to overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic, but those changes may be permanent. Another sector which has seen tremendous growth is the esports sector. While esports had been steadily growing in popularity over the last few years, the onset of the pandemic meant that it suddenly became part of mainstream conversations, as live sports all but disappeared from our TV screens. With no sports events taking place, esports was one of the only remaining alternatives for sports fans, where many sports leagues and competitions created their own esports competitions, for their athletes to compete against each other from the safety of their homes, rather than out on the field or track. F1 racing put on multiple virtual GPs, with the likes of Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon, Max Verstappen and more F1 drivers competing against each other as well as other sports stars such as Ben Stokes. Football also joined the esports party, with the likes of La Liga and the Premier League hosting esports knockout tournaments on the FIFA video game, with Sergio Aguero, Adnan Januzaj, Kyle Walker and other footballers representing their teams on these leagues. It is thus no surprise that the esports world is seeing a lot of interest and investment in the current climate, and the news that the owner of the New Zealand Breakers, Matt Walsh, has joined the New Zealand Esports Federation is only further proof of this.
The New Zealand Esports Federation is the official sporting body for esports in the country as recognized by Sport New Zealand, which gives it access to funding and resources from the likes of High Performance Sport NZ. Walsh has also formed the country’s first major esports organization, called Black Sheep, which has a training facility in Auckland, and is also backed by a professional sports club. It has already competed at esports events across Oceania, while also representing the team at global events such as Blizzcon and EVO. New Zealand is only the twenty-fifth country to recognize a national body for esports, and that will only help the efforts currently being made to include esports as a discipline at the Olympics and Paralympics.
As owner of the New Zealand Breakers, Walsh has a lot of experience in traditional sports, which will help the esports business in understanding their target demographic, as well as the kind of content they need to put out to attract them and keep them engaged.