Online gaming industry surges amid coronavirus crisis

Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi and Alexis Christoforous speak with Super League Gaming CEO Ann Hand about the uptick in gaming amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: While everyone is sitting in their homes locked down and respecting social-distancing rules, gamers are having a virtual field day. And as a result, numerous gaming companies have seen big upticks in their business lately. One of them is Super League Gaming, an amateur e-sports gaming league that connects gamers of all levels and ages. It says it saw 20% growth in new users for the month of March. Pretty big-- pretty big increases.

Joining us now to talk about the industry is Ann Hand, Chairman and CEO of Super League Gaming. And also joining our conversation is our Tech Editor Dan Howley. Ann, good to see you again here this morning. Take us through some of the trends you are seeing in the business outside of just user growth, which is pretty eye popping.


ANN HAND: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, in this dire world circumstance, there's a real silver lining for a lot of companies in the gaming space, and specifically Super League. We, in the month of March alone, signed up 300,000 new users. But more importantly, we did about 10 million hours of game play through our platform, and that is two times what we did in January and February.

So, you know, Super League's building blocks have always been about how do you tap into more social and positive community around gaming? Gaming can still be very isolating, and especially during COVID times. And so we're a way for everyday gamers to connect with each other locally and keep their friendships going, maybe, you know, almost becoming the new cul-de-sac or quad, so to speak, in these times when you can't go outside and play.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, Ann, how do you do that? How do you incentivize people to get involved when there are no live sports going on? And truly we don't even know when they're going to come back. How do you do that?

ANN HAND: Yeah, actually you just really led up to the key trend that's really driving so much of our growth right now. You know, out of the gate we stood for everyday recreational e-sports. And I often say to investors, like, maybe forget the word e-sports because it sounds then like it's a niche or fad. It really just means competitive video gaming.

And I've said to you guys before, you know, it's really no different than you take tennis lessons. At some point you want to join the tennis team. And so what we're doing is we wrap teams and leagues in these extra layers of competition and social constructs. So we give you a different way to enjoy the game.

But then to your point about the void, you know, the fact that live sports for the foreseeable future are gone. And when you think about that, it's a pretty amazing thing that e-sports has a window now to really fill a lot of that void.

So I'll give you a really tangible example. We have a great national partnership with Topgolf. Obviously their retail outlets are closed right now, but they own a great video game around golf called the "World Golf Tour." They are able to use our tournament but also our remote live-production capability. We run tournaments for their members, and we're able to do global live broadcasts of those in a very affordable, accessible way. So it's a way for them to stay connected to their member base.

And the application for that is infinite. There's no reason on a Saturday, in lieu of The Masters, we couldn't watch a kid from Des Moines beating maybe Rory McIlroy in a virtual golfing game.

DAN HOWLEY: Ann, this is Dan Howley. You know, I've been playing a lot of games. I always do. My wife and I together playing a lot of "Call of Duty-- War Zone" right now. I know that's very hot.

We're seeing a lot of gamers jump in now and spending a lot more time playing, but when the economy starts to open up again, when we can leave our homes again, where do you see the gaming industry going? Do you see a rebound? Do you see a pullback? What happens here?

ANN HAND: Yeah, it's the right question because obviously people are going to, you know, be excited to go out and do those things we haven't been allowed to do. I take comfort in the resiliency of our business, not just through recession and corona times but then the way that it will continue to grow and endure post. And that's really because gaming is now the largest form of entertainment. It's bigger than TV. It's three times the size of the global film box office, and that was pre-COVID.

So this is really the dominant form of entertainment. And you know, because you're a gamer, it's because it's not just passive. There's community built in. There's social connections. It's interactive entertainment, and that's why it has such high engagement and stickiness.

And so what I am grateful for is that this is a real opportunity for Super League to push itself into being a important component of the gamers' time and wallet, hopefully, for our investors. And I'm really excited too about the heightened attention that we're getting through our engagement performance, that surge in performance, because you can see it in our average daily trading volume right now. I mean, we've had a real spike over the last couple of weeks, and that heightened market awareness is good for us being a first mover on NASDAQ in the e-sports space.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, Ann Hand, chairman and CEO of Super League Gaming, thanks for joining us today. Enjoy your weekend of "Fortnight." Is that your game?

ANN HAND: It's not my game. I've only tried it a few times, and I died very early. But I enjoy watching others.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, hang in there. Have a great weekend.