The fast global rise of e-sports
E-sports is a fast-growing industry. It may seem like a niche industry, but the numbers tell a different story. E-sport is the first world sport outside of football that is truly global. Is it a sport? It is competitive entertainment. There are teams, there are leagues. The gamers can be seen as athletes because they train 10 hours per day and live like athletes.
Electronic sports first took off in South Korea about twenty years ago when the government looked to stimulate its reeling economy with heavy investments in IT infrastructure. Super fast Internet gave rise to the Korean PC Bang (PC rooms), internet cafe's with fast computers where people spend an average of five hours playing computer games. The huge popularity of the Starcraft game was the base for today’s e-sports phenomenon. There are a range games available to play competitively online. Riot Games’ League of Legends is currently the most popular, but there’s a range of other titles, each with their own subcultures.
Another popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) is Dota 2 based on the same custom game mod, ‘Defense of the Ancients’ as League of Lengends. The League of Legends 2016 World Championship had over 43 million unique viewers. Dota 2 impressively reached about half of that, at over 20 million unique viewers, and a prize pool of more than $20 million.The last Intel Extreme Masters World Championship tournament in Katowice, Poland, was followed by more than 46m unique online viewers. Approximately 300 million people worldwide tune in to eSports today, and that number is growing rapidly. By 2020, that number will be closer to 500 million.
Today, as the popularity of eSports continues to grow, media companies such as ESPN and Turner are broadcasting eSports tournaments and competitions. YouTube started the live streaming channel YouTube Gaming. While huge numbers of people play and watch the games it it still not very widespread. FIFA 18 is the most likely online game to achieve the mainstream crossover outside the existing community because it speaks the universal language of sport and is played by a younger generation on their Playstations and Xboxes. Teams like Manchester City, PSG, Monaco and Roma already have their own E-sports teams. We will see the virtual influencing the physical world and vice versa. From being inspired by the game, to being in the game.
The fact that it's global, driven by technology and has a young demographic, makes it interesting for companies to get involved. US channels like Disney XD, ESPN, and NBC are all testing eSports broadcasting, to reach new, younger audiences. The audience demographics is young, passionate, male-dominated, and digital-first. Some say it’s 85% male, others say it’s 56%. They live online and on social media, are avid ad-blockers, and don't watch traditional TV or respond to conventional advertising. The young audiences will be more connected to technology, be it through their phone, computer, game consoles or through virtual reality.
Gaming computers tend have a certain design aesthetic that appeals to the young gaming community. The fan systems, relocated vents to increase in airflow inside the system, influence a large part of the design. Transparent cases expose the internal LED lights, the lines are bulky, cases plastic and cheap looking. Screens are set up next to each other, extra wide or curved. Dominant colours are black, red and blue and some rainbow LED effects. Ugly? Maybe, but gamers think it is cool and would never choose a practical aluminium sleek laptop to play their games, it is part of the scene. The eighties aesthetics makes the generation gap crystal clear. As gaming matures, millennials may demand a cleaner design, a more grown up aesthetic that still looks cool.
Esports is estimated to reach 589 million viewers globally making it interesting as an investment and an opportunity to connect your name as a sponsor to reach a young audience that will not be reached by traditional media.
The growing popularity will drive sales and demand for home gaming set ups that are fast and look cool. And to make the gaming experience seamless, devices for fast on the go gaming with good graphics.
As we see in a lot of our research the cross over from the virtual to the physical world makes it interesting. Think what that can mean for your brand, could your activities be translated into a virtual version? Or could what you do virtually exist in the real world? These cross overs make it interesting and create steps towards a future where we will move away from the screen.