The Esports Industry
Written by: Account Executive, Cam Williams
Over the past decade, the esports industry has burst onto the scene as one of the fastest growing industries in the world. After the industry’s wildly successful 2018, experts predict that the esports market will surpass the billion dollar mark in 2019. From popular sports titles like FIFA and Madden to Farming Simulator games, (yes, there is a Farming Simulator Championship) hundreds of millions of fans tune into live streams of these events, leaving marketers drooling over the massive reach these events have.
After Riot Games hosted a tournament for its game League of Legends in November last year, they reported that nearly 100 million unique viewers tuned in for the finals (the 2018 Super Bowl had an average of 103 million viewers). Much like the rest of our society is moving with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, UberEats, and other on-demand services, esports is becoming massively popular because of its convenience. Users don’t have to leave their homes to go watch these tournaments, they can watch them for free on their laptop through streaming services such as Twitch. There is no channel that needs to be added onto your cable plan, (yet) and there is a vast audience that can be reached with these tournaments and the teams competing in them.
When the typical professional sports competition is happening, there is very little interaction between the players and the fans. Maybe a player jumps into the stands after a ball in the NBA or a player talks to a young fan while they are taking practice swings in the MLB, but for the most part there is limited communication between players and fans. In the esports world, players can interact with their fans in real time while they are streaming through the live comments section completely driven by fans. This provides a much more personal experience for the viewer and thus gets them to stick around longer. The popular streaming service Twitch accounts for more peak internet traffic than anyone except Google, Netflix, and Apple. Twitch users also watch an average of 421.6 minutes per month, about 44% more than YouTube users. Popular players such as Shroud, Tfue, and Ninja regularly draw tens of millions of viewers per month streaming different games. This has led companies to form personal partnerships with these individual players like Red Bull’s partnership with Ninja.
While esports could realistically surpass some of the major sports at some point in the future, it is hardly a typical sport. As the first sport born in the post internet age, there has been a completely different strategy as to how it is being marketed and communicated to the public. The promoters of this booming industry understand that their audience is more tech savvy and keeps up with internet trends. This means marketers have to be up to the minute on what’s happening on the internet in order to interact effectively with their audiences. Finally, in an age where information travels faster than ever before, there is a high demand for transparency from teams to fans. Marketers have begun to work with influencers in the esports world to build the brand of both the companies and the esports world, and there is no reason to think this is going to end anytime soon.
If you were to tell someone five years ago that professional gaming teams would one day be more valuable than a professional sports franchise, they probably would have looked at you like you have 3 heads. The most valuable esports team in the world right now, Cloud9, is valued at $310 million, more valuable than six current NHL franchises. These teams receive sponsorships and investments from sports teams, celebrities, and large corporations looking to invest in the booming esports industry. Thanks to these investments, there are currently nine esports teams in the world that are valued at over $100 million, and this number will only continue to grow. With every new team created, new sponsorship formed, and media deal signed, the prediction that esports will one day be alongside sports such as soccer, football, and basketball seems less far fetched.