eSports is Coming and You Better Have a Plan to Embrace It
Competitive gaming has existed almost as long as videogames have themselves. Over recent years however, eSports has exploded in popularity to become the mainstream spectator sport that it is today. 2016 was a huge year for eSports and 2017 shows no signs of it slowing down. With a predicted year-on-year economy growth of 41.3% to $696 million (eSports Market Report, 2017) there are plenty of opportunities for firms to tap into this lucrative market.
Growth is partly down to games like Call of Duty, League of legends and Overwatch supporting strong competitive scenes (for both solo and team play). Their large player bases, sponsorship deals and support from game developers help to create the perfect ecosystem for the army of dedicated players, spectators and commentators to thrive. With the rise of live-streaming services such as Twitch and YouTube beingreadily available, accessibility to eSports has never been easier.
The biggest shift in eSports is how it’s now becoming universally recognised as a sport in its own right. Perceptions surrounding what was traditionally regarded as niche-entertainment medium are changing and it’s now realising mainstream recognition – both socially and commercially.
Sporting giants such as New England Patriots & New York Mets have recently announced their investment in eSport teams. Through their affiliation alone, these new eSport teams piggyback off an already established fan-base, resulting in huge levels of consumer exposure. Even brands typically associated with more casual gamers (e.g. FIFA) are introducing their own e-leagues too, which further supplements this increase of newcomers. From a corporate perspective, media behemoths such as ESPN, Turner and BBC are also prioritising their broadcasts of eSport tournaments – indicating their continued commitment to the industry.
So, what does this mean for firms? eSports is growing exponentially as an independent market, which is encouraging the convergence of more traditional industries. Established brands are joining forces with the games, media & entertainment industries alike – heading towards a common future. This future is designed to serve eSport’s main audience – the millennials. Whilst recent reports advocate that traditional sports are losing popularity amongst their younger fans, eSports is bearing witness to the complete opposite.
Traditionally, millennials have been a hard audience to engage – mainly thanks to their unconventional and dynamic consumer behaviour. eSport bridges this gap and provides opportunities for brands to connect and monetise millennials during their favourite past time – playing and watching video games.
By 2020, prudent forecasts suggest that total eSport revenues will reach $1.5billion, whilst optimistic predictions indicate a total revenue as high as $3billion.
Although product spending is currently still considerably less than traditional sport alternatives, the forecasted growth trends will surely aid in instilling confidence in the future commerciality of eSports product. This is an opportunity for licensees to explore new eSport product lines, in order to satisfy the markets ever-growing demand for product.
Like all sports, eSports is all about the augmented offering. Not only is it an opportunity for players to showcase their skills and ability, but it’s also home to a fully-fledged community of dedicated fans that want to share their passion and excitement towards their common interest. Spectators participate to play witness to the emotional roller-coaster associated with their team (or player) – through the ups and downs each tournament provides. The affinity shared with eSports, is something which simply isn’t going away – no matter who wins each tournament, eSports as a market is just warming up.
Instinctive, intuitive, a curveball thinker and freestyle ideator. Co-founder of PowerStation Studios, Dave Collins has spent over a decade working with entertainment brands to maximise their commercial return through technology, creativity and communication.