By Loanna Overcash
Approximately 1.8 billion minutes of esports were viewed as an overall category during April 2020 – according to Twitch Tracker statistics. “That’s equivalent to 205,000 years’ worth of content,” said Jeff Day, founder of North of 10 Advisors and moderator of a recent webinar panel discussion hosted by AVIXA®. The webinar, “Esports: Looking to the Future in the Post-COVID-19 World”, brings together AV industry experts to share their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges in the esports space under current circumstances and in a post-COVID-19 world.
Below are highlights from the discussion.
The Future’s so Bright…
While COVID-19 has created a unique backdrop in which to consider opportunities, the esports industry has already seen an annual growth of approximately 15% over the past few years, says Day.
“With the pandemic, everyone is breaking records with viewership. Brands can now dig deeper into esports and gaming. With ESPN, BBC, and other networks looking to acquire more esports content – it is a recognition that gaming and esports is extremely strong, reaches a global viewership, and provides a lot of great brand integration,” said panelist Nasim Abu Qouta, Senior Sales Executive of Brand Partnerships, DreamHack AB.
To understand the potential for esports, one must look beyond the games and platforms. There is an entire esports ecosystem comprised of publishers, players and teams, tournaments and leagues, and brands and advertisers. These groups are coming together to create new forms of entertainment and consumption.
Community, Branding, and Sponsorships
Community is integral to gaming and esports, the teams, and the environment. In this space, authenticity is key. Brands that understand and provide value to the community will find an extremely loyal audience. Fundamentally, gaming is about forming social connections and it’s about learning. The audience expects a good commentator and analysis because they want to learn. Production needs to cover all the important angles for the observer – and if that doesn’t happen, the community will be vocal about it.
Online platforms that are effective have leaned into their communities and are engagement driven – such as providing digital content rewards for engaging in the content.
Approximately 200 schools have varsity esports programs and scholarships totaling $16 million – a number that has doubled in the past 3 years. As more academic institutions move from intramural to varsity programs, curriculum, and workforce development opportunities will increase.
The opportunity to double the addressable market lies with women gamers. While 46% of gamers are women, they may not be playing typical esports games. The advantage with esports is that it is a competition of the mind – not physicality.
The NBA 2K League, the first official esports league operated by a U.S. professional sports league with 23 teams across the globe, “is putting a strong emphasis behind attracting women. This is a huge opportunity to expand community,” said panelist Mike Donnay, Vice President, Brand Networks, Detroit Pistons.
Hosting all female esports tournaments is another way to engage women gamers by enabling them to compete under the same conditions as male sports athletes.
Expanding Gaming Genres
The technical innovation, production elements, storytelling, and creative competition being forced by the explosion of esports will benefit broader gaming genres beyond the stereotypical first-person shooter games.
“The esports space leverages a lot of technologies the AV industry is already engaged in to create an experience like no other,” said panelist Brad Sousa, Chief Technology Officer of AVI Systems. “The best experience/outcomes are going to come from people with a developed skillset in areas such as production, live events, and broadcast. The newness of the application is going to attract and create credibility for esports.”
Future Venues and Arena Readiness
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for esports is designing an overall experience so valuable that participants are compelled to leave the comfort of their own homes to attend.
While the trend has been to choose a venue and create a professional esports event to fit that space, ideally the venue would be strategically designed to the experience and capable of hosting more than one event at a time.
“Every platform is different. It comes down to the conversation of ‘what are the needs?’ and making sure it is future proof, where you can scale up,” said Donnay.
The Revolution Will Be Gamified
“Gaming is a $140 billion industry. Esports is a $1 billion industry. In terms of virtual production technology – esports is leading edge and we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg,” said panelist Todd Harris, CEO of Skillshot Media. “Gaming is going to revolutionize production. That technology is going to democratize the production industry – growing on every single platform. We are just getting started in this massive industry full of opportunity.”
Watch the full webinar now: Esports: Looking to the Future in the Post-COVID-19 World