Over the last decade or so, eSports have experienced a gigantic boom in popularity. Competitive gaming is not a recent concept and you could go back to the 1970s and find gaming competitions in arcades. However, eSport has taken that original concept and multiplied it by a thousand. The advancement of technology and the overall demand for video games has made eSports a multi-million-dollar industry and nowadays some of the top competitions can net players over $1m in prize money.
It has gained a huge following not just from players but spectators as well with some of the most major tournaments selling out arenas and attracting viewers all around the globe. It is because of that popularity that TV networks started to take notice and the likes of ESPN, Sky and Fox all have broadcasting rights for various eSports competitions and tournaments. Some of the top competitions can land you well over $1m in prize money and tournaments for games such as League of Legends, FIFA and Fortnite sell out major arenas and attract millions of viewers across the world. Most major sports networks like ESPN, Sky and Fox now cover eSport.
One of the biggest hurdles that eSport has had to overcome is the hunt for legitimacy. Whilst there will always be neighsayers in any sport, that issue is long behind them. With their audience growing year on year, it impossible not to take notice and this is reflected in the sports betting industry’s decision to welcome eSports markets. Analysts now predict that eSports betting will be worth $3 billion by 2025.
What is most exciting about the industry right now however is that we are still in the stages of infancy. It is expected to grow by 6% between 2020 and 2025, with the revenue growing to $513m in the US by 2023. There is plenty of room for it to grow and evolve just like it has from 1970s arcade gaming and we are likely to see these changes soon.
In terms of technological advancements, the most obvious evolution of eSports would be a wider foray into Virtual Reality. Global accounting firm PWC released a five year projection of consumer and advertiser spending data, finding that VR will be the most significant growth segment at 30%.
Whilst there are already VR games played competitively, as we see the technology behind it improve and the inception of virtual universes such as the ‘Metaverse’, we can expect the quality to improve tenfold. There is also a case to be made for the changing aesthetics of gaming. As the overall graphic quality of video games and the devices they are played on improves, the aesthetic quality is sure to be a huge pull for the industry.
It is also likely that eSports will become more accessible at the ground level. Whilst most all competitions are played via console gaming, there will come a time where the industry takes notice of mobile gaming. Hundreds of millions of us walk round with an Android or iOS device in our pocket every day and mobile gaming actually represents 57% of the $173 billion gaming market. Whilst this would make eSports more accessible it could also potentially welcome new eyes to competitive gaming as they appeal to a previously untapped market.
An increase in media deals seems inevitable as we continue to see the audience grow, even with some of the biggest sports networks already on board. We are seeing some major brands and companies partner with competitions and eSports teams with the likes of Amazon, Mastercard and 7-11 getting involved. We even saw the NFL partner with Faze Clan, arguably the most famous eSports team in the world, for the Super Bowl this year. These brands and companies see the value in advertising via eSports which can only be a good thing. This also brings in new revenue streams, again allowing room for investment in eSport’s future.
It is estimated that the e-Sports industry will become a multi-billion-dollar industry in the coming years and with that kind of revenue it is safe to assume that funding for it is in very good shape. This kind of investment means that it is likely to continue evolving and finding new way to bring in both players and spectators. It helps that gaming is already accessible with over half of households in the US owning a games console. However, as mentioned previously, it is likely to become even more so if the industry is to embrace mobile gaming at a competitive level. The similarities between traditional sports and eSports are never ending so it is no surprise to see such growth and we can only expect it to get bigger every passing year.