The sudden emergence of Covid-19 in 2020 really shook up the world – and many industries suffered. While hospitality and culinary establishments widely had to close down, esports events didn’t – they just had to adopt a different format. The switch from physical to online-only wasn’t without its issues, but it not only allowed major esports tournaments to continue, but it also gave all of the people stuck at home in lockdowns something to do.
Thankfully, in the middle of 2021, we are headed back towards a more ‘normal’ world… and thus, things can go back to normal for esports events too, right? Well… wrong. With travel restrictions still firmly in place and Covid-19 protocols limiting movement, it’s too soon to go back to LAN events and physical tournaments.
That’s where hybrid tournaments come in. A mix of physical and digital, these events have a limited in-person audience and mainly rely on large international audiences that join digitally. This isn’t too new – major events like BlizzCon and GamesCom have had to go digital in the last year.
There are however already some attempts to shift the esports ecosystem back to normal – such as the 2021 hybrid Gamescom. The physical event will happen in Cologne, Germany, under strict restrictions in number of attendees and hygiene rules. For digital content, there is even a digital ticketing/queuing system to allow remote visitors access to content that isn’t available at larger scales.
Segments like the Opening Night Live or the Gamescom studio from last year will return, allowing remote and in-person viewers to enjoy. There are even slated to be some cosplay competitions and even smaller esports tournaments. Similarly, to the upcoming Gamescom, the related devcom (an event for game developers) and the Gamescom congress 2021 will be held as hybrid events.
A way forward
The upcoming BMW esports boost, a somewhat more business-focused esports event will also adapt this format. Previously, there have been several tournaments in the Asian region that also were hybrid types – for example the PUBG Global Invitational.S. A highlight particularly for esports betting fans, the event featured in-person competition for teams in South Korea, while audiences and casters watched remotely.
Meanwhile the esports Connect Asia 2021 has a somewhat different type of Hybrid event – in January this year, it held a virtual forum on Zoom, while in August this year, there will be a matching in-person event happening. Both events feature panelists, have serious topic lineups and esports-themed schedules.
Where previously, in-person events were ‘the way to go’, this sort of hybrid event really offers the best of both worlds. It not only allows local visitors and guests to engage with others in the in-person segments, but it also widens access to audiences that can’t or don’t want to attend in person. Be that because of time restraints, travel costs, ticket availability or any other number of issues. Of course, for now many people are keen to get back to real-life meetups after a year of being semi-locked up, but long-term, hybrid events have a lot of appeal in the esports industry.