A whole new breed of athlete…
Remember when your mom and dad told you that playing video games all day would amount to nothing, and that you would become lazy, reprobate, and unemployed? Well, turns out they were massively wrong. These days, a passion for video games could actually lead you to the big leagues and a universe of fortune and fame. Welcome to the world of Esports, where professional gamers compete 24/7 around the world in competitions for money, fame, and glory. Now, we’re not talking about your average fantasy sports either, but a competitive revolution with millions of players, hundreds of millions of fans, and billions of dollars in revenue.
Video game tournaments have been a thing since the inception of the first video games in the 70’s. What started out as a niche event however, now draws comparative numbers that rival traditional sporting events. Global viewership is said to be 214 million people annually and growing. It’s an international sport with a massive presence in North America, Europe and Asia.
Much of this success has to do with the advent of live-streaming and companies like Amazon’s Twitch that have enabled super-fans to watch each other play games. Esports consists of a variety of video games, of which the biggest are Counter-Strike Go, Dota, Call of Duty, Overwatch and League of Legends. Combined, these games fuel the projected billion dollar industry.
Investors and Hollywood agencies are taking note. As one anonymous Hollywood agent frankly states “The numbers are up and to the right”, which would explain why so much money is being sunk into the industry. Millions have been placed into teams and it’s coming from everyone from Mark Cuban to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Even ESPN is investing big time. China too is big on the game as Tencent has recently reported they will be investing $15 billion dollars into the space over the next 5 years.
Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, and Riot Games are some of the biggest players not only because they’ve collectively created the biggest games in ESports, but because they are also investing into leagues and old and new broadcasting networks.
Brands like Intel, Coca-Cola and Redbull are leading the way for advertisers as they are investing heavily in this world from integrated products, sponsored competitions, viewing parties and even the teams and players themselves.
Also get familiar with teams like Cloud 9, Immortals and Fnatic, these are teams that can play multiple disciplines, in the same way the US Olympic Team has different disciplines. Some of these teams even have their own “Steph Curry” superstars. Take Faker for example who hails from Korea and is the number one League of Legends player in the world. He makes over $2M a year, not including sponsorship and bonuses.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the impact of Esports, from ticketing, to advertising, marketing and integrated media. Broadcasters, advertisers, sponsors, investors, and merchandisers all stand to make a lot of money. According to Newzoo, in the coming year the Esports economy will grow to $696 million, and brands are expected to spend $517 million across advertising and media which is expected to hit $1.5 billion annually in 2020.
Education is a big element as well. In Korea, they have “PC bangs” in schools where students can learn and go to traditional school and then play videogames like it’s band class. The NCAA is discussing room for Esports in their collegiate league, and Blizzard is giving away $1 million in college scholarships.
The Esports demo is unique and untapped.They are digital-first, young, male-dominated, passionate, and not necessarily into traditional sports and TV. In fact, they are hard to reach on traditional media. The numbers don’t lie though. Esports is an innovative medium that has direct access to its consumers and is truly international. The industry is poised for success. One day we might even see Esports hit the Olympics. It’s important to consider how this will impact your business, and how you can leverage it for the future. As we move into AR/VR and other forms of communication and content, Esports may become the new normal of sports and athleticism.