eSports - the future or a sad reality?

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Can you imagine a world where virtual prowess earns more than physical talent? An artificial reality whereby an operator can amass more financially than the real life subject ones controlling. Welcome to the world of eSports, a booming, soon to become billion-dollar industry, which is hitting the mainstream media. 

Never heard of it? The British E-Sports Association define it as “…competitive video gaming consisting of amateur and professional gamers” (British eSports Association 2018). Yes, technically its a ‘game’ and not a sport but its impact and effect on the sports marketing industry simply cannot go unnoticed.

The growth of eSports is substantial and surprising to say the least. Many look to Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch (a leader in live streaming for gaming) as a catalyst for change in 2014 as well as YouTube’s launch of ‘YouTube Gaming’.

The graph below (Business Insider 2018) shows the last three years of growth and the investment in the industry.

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Newszoo estimates the industry will grow to $1.5 billion by 2020 as audiences continue to rise and revenue streams start to become established. With branding investment set to double by 2020, and with club franchises and partnerships proving profitable, it’s no real surprise.

The graphic below shows the year on year growth as well as the split of revenue streams.

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As mentioned, audience members are on the rise rapidly with a reach of 380 million globally, consisting of both eSport enthusiasts and occasional viewers. This isn’t surprising as it becomes ever more accessible for all to view. With Ginx Sports TV, a 24-hour TV channel dedicated to eSports as well as the more mainstream Sky Sports and ESPN, eSports is only ever a few clicks away.

Mainstream media brings the big bucks when it comes to prize money, and eSports certainly have that. It shouldn’t be overlooked and again, only technically a ‘game’, the prize money certainly isn’t playing around and is actually comparable to winnings in many traditional sports.

With a total prize pool of $27.4 million, this surpasses The NBA Championship ($13,000,000) and The Confederations Cup ($20,000,000). This particular eSports prize fund even beats the Tour de France, The ICC Champions Trophy, The Melbourne Cup and The Masters… COMBINED!

Media partnerships are becoming ever more regular and lucrative for the industry. Take Sky Sports for example, teaming up with FACEIT “the most prestigious eSports tournament to take place in the UK.” The UK TV broadcaster is streaming every second live through their website.

Not only will they broadcast the event but surrounding content, including build up features and interviews with the gamers. It really is unbelievable the exposure this industry is receiving but with popularity brings marketing opportunities.

Top flight football clubs have recognised this and have even recruited eSport players to represent them at FIFA tournaments, identifying ways for business growth and revenue. Clubs want to become established as soon as possible, evidently it seems sponsorship is rocketing and clubs see this as a potential revenue stream.

So, is this just the beginning of what is yet to come in the world of entertainment or is it just a fad that will plateau and decline? Personally, I feel it’s difficult to be passionate about somebody playing a virtual game where results are determined through pressing buttons on a controller… but who knows, that may just be me?