Competitive gaming has taken a long journey from challenging a friend to a showdown to filling some of the largest stadiums in the world. ESports is officially taking the world by storm and is expected to bring up to $1.1 billion of revenue in 2019, according to Newzoo. As we look forward to a new year and gamers hone their skills for the next big match, let’s take a look at the trends and see where this monster industry is headed.
With the launch of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR this year, 2017 will see further exploration into streaming events in virtual reality. VR games will also get the eSports treatment, as Oculus has done with The Unspoken.
“If eSports players and fans feel like they’re getting something crammed down their collective throat for the sake of novelty, it could de-position VR as nothing more than a fad,” Insomniac Games’ chief brand officer, Ryan Schneider, told [a]listdaily. “That’s why we’re approaching this from a very grassroots level, seeking game feedback from experts and the most passionate players. Certainly though, the potential is there to grow VR adoption because you have a huge base of PC players hungry for fresh, competitive experiences. On the surface, nothing in gaming is hotter at the moment than VR/AR and eSports. Marrying the two is inevitable.”
Currently, eSports enthusiasts can experience competitions in virtual reality thanks to brands like ESL, Valve and Sliver.tv. “Our vision is to transform the eSports spectator landscape forever,” said Mitch Liu, co-founder and CEO of Sliver.tv, “and incorporating augmented live stats into our VR 360 livestreams of CS:GO and LoL is a big step towards this vision.”
Mo’ Mobile, Mo’ Money
Mobile will also become a more serious contender in the competitive arena, as proven by Clash Royale, Mobcrush and Skillz-hosted competitions. Skillz has run more than 100 million mobile eSports tournaments to date and now hosts over 500,000 tournaments every day, awarding over $5 million in cash prizes to players every month, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
ESports prize pools continue to rise year-over-year, and Dota 2 has broken its own record by offering over $20 million during The International this past August. Game publisher, Valve, invites players to sweeten the pot by purchasing a Battle Pass—25 percent of which goes toward The International prize pool.
Brands Cash In
As eSports gain popularity, more brands will want to be associated with it. That’s a smart strategy, according to analyst firm, Nielsen. Opinions of brands that participate in traditional sports rose 12 percent in Nielsen’s study, while purchase intent rose seven percent and brand loyalty rose eight percent when brands integrated eSports.
Over the next year, more brands will become associated with eSports either through original content and sponsorship. Geico, for example, promoted its eSports team, SoloMid (TSM) with a comedy series on YouTube this past year and brands like Arby’s, Credit Karma and Buffalo Wild Wings all sponsored a new CS:GO tournament called ELeague—paying $2 million each. Twitch has become an official sales representative for eSports teams, Team SoloMid and Cloud9 (C9), connecting them with brands outside of the gaming world and further growing the eSports industry.
It’s not just restaurants and insurance cashing in on the competitive gaming arena, either—professional athletes from throughout the world of traditional sports are not only interested in eSports, but buying and creating teams of their own. Even Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks is confident in this new industry. “There is no reason to try to legitimize eSports to anyone,” Cuban told [a]listdaily. “ESports is a real industry. People can choose whether to connect to it themselves. The participation numbers and the online viewership numbers speak for themselves. What matters is that people who love eSports really get into it. They watch clips and matches. They play the game. There is no need to try to convince those on the outside.”
Although the change may be slow, the coming year may prove to be more diverse—a recent report indicated that more women are involved in competitive gaming than men and while eSports is primarily dominated by males, additional ways to play (i.e. mobile) and emerging female teams may change that. The launch of Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League sends the message that anyone, anywhere can become a champion.
With 75 percent of female gamers playing on mobile over any other platform, the idea of competing is catching on quickly. Koh Kim, co-head of business development at Mobcrush sees the large female audience on mobile opens up new opportunities for female pro eSports.
“We’re seeing a better mix of male and female players in the top ranks, and many more mixed teams,” Kim told [a]listdaily. “That’s a great message for the community. There are more female players and personalities, giving other females the role models they’re looking for. That really puts out the message that any hardworking, talented player will have a platform to succeed and the support of the community.”
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