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Can Cricket 22 help to encourage more people to follow the sport?

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

After a short delay was announced on November 22, Cricket 22 was released a week later than planned, on December 2. The delay allowed the developer, Big Ant Studios, to make some last-minute changes to the game’s cover art, some other visuals, and team lists.

This meant that players received a “critical day one patch” that they needed to install to be able to play the majority of the content.

The game has been widely praised already by both critics and fans who have been able to get early access to at least some parts of Cricket 22.

Big Ant Studios has expanded the scope of its latest cricket title. Not only will it feature the Ashes, but fans can also enjoy Australia’s Big Bash League, The Hundred, the Caribbean Premier League, and other international leagues.

But will Cricket 22 be a niche title enjoyed by hardcore cricket fans or could it reach a broader audience?

Cricket’s Demographic Problem

Cricket is hugely popular. It is one of the oldest sports that’s still enjoyed today and has spread its wings right around the world.

It is built on a mix of tradition and modernity. The County Championship in England and Wales has been in existence since 1890, but the UK’s counties have been competing against each other for a while longer. The competition retains many of the original traditions, including breaking for tea, the most English of intervals.

In contrast, the Indian Premier League was formed in 2008 and has quickly grown into the world’s biggest domestic cricket competitions. It uses the modern T20 format and has teams that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Cricket has also embraced technology in many areas, being one of the first to use Hawk-Eye technology. It’s also become a popular sport for sports betting, especially among those that enjoy making in-play wagers. Many bookmakers have embraced this too, running free bet promotions that cricket fans can use during major tournaments.

However, despite being one of the oldest and biggest sports, cricket has a demographic problem.

According to 2018 research conducted by the ICC, cricket has more than one billion fans, making it one of the top-five most-watched sports in the world. However, the study also found that more than 90 percent of these fans can be found on the Indian sub-continent.

The average age of a cricket fan is also much older, coming in at 34. Considering the average ages in India and Pakistan are 29 and 22.8 respectively, it shows just how much older cricket fans are.

For soccer, the average age varies depending on how and where the study is conducted, but the largest demographic of fans is aged between 19 and 24.

On top of this, fewer than 40 percent of cricket fans identify as female, showing there is room for the sport for growth in this area.

Can Cricket 22 Help Promote the Sport?

The NBA and MLB have both included video games and e-sports into their strategies to grow their global audiences. In 2019, MLB announced it was launching an e-sports league in China to help build its brand there. Meanwhile, the NBA launched the 2K League to build relationships with younger fans.

Cricket 22 and other cricket video games could also help in this way.

38 per cent of US gamers are aged between 18 and 34, with similar figures seen elsewhere in the world. This could help cricket to reach a younger demographic, especially if Cricket 22 can become an e-sport.

However, Big Ant Studios may have missed a trick here as Nautilus Mobile, the developer of Real Cricket 20, recently teamed up with Esports Entertainment Group to create the Ecricket World Series.

Cricket 22 could still play a key role in reaching out to new demographics though. A big focus has been placed on reaching parity between the men’s and women’s games within the new title, with both competitions represented equally and including a female commentary team. Some hope that this move could help increase the likelihood of there being a Women’s IPL.

This could help to close the gap between men and women in the sport. In fact, just increasing the female following while maintaining the male one could increase cricket’s viewership by as much as 20 per cent.

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