It is no surprise that video gaming and especially mobile gaming is a wildly popular social activity today. What many of more traditional entertainment providers were surprised by was how quickly gaming also became a spectator sport.
Back in 2014 people were debating the sheer potential of eSports, with many of them sceptical of gaming becoming a viable and sustainable career option. Now, with platforms like YouTube, Twitch and Mixer opening up the world of video game streaming, and the news of the 2019 Fortnite World Cup competition winner bringing home three million US dollars, it’s evident that the industry is growing at a tremendous pace. Games like DOTA 2, Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), are amongst the few video games that generate huge numbers of fans across the globe.
Recent insights suggest that this market is slated to touch 1.1 billion USD by the end of the current year, showing a growth of about 27% over last year. And, according to market researchers Newzoo, the video gaming industry will be altogether worth $180.1 billion by 2021.
“A clear marker of pop culture and the subsequent Gen Z, this is mainstream entertainment of the future, with an 18% CAGR expected over the next five years.”
Big media players are on top of this trend, aggressively investing in the eSports market. As a media services professional, what I find fascinating is the interest of mainstream broadcasters in this space. With multi-million-dollar media rights bought by the likes of ESPN and Sky to stream eSports events, it is quickly becoming the next exponential growth driver for the market.
However, there is a twist in the tale. Unlike traditional broadcasting, the competition in this market is not just between mainstream broadcasters, but also OTT players and social media giants.
“Given the highly immersive nature of eSports, the eventual winner in this market will be the one that can deliver a seamless and interactive viewer experience across devices.”
eSports is attractive. It is also challenging.
With over 400 million estimated eSports viewers in 2019 its allure is undeniable. That said, delivering eSports globally has its challenges.
It is a new-age, hi-tech sport that is followed by young, tech-savvy and demanding viewers. At the same time, there are too many players from across the globe competing and too much happening simultaneously, making it difficult to follow everything in depth.
“In such a scenario, high-quality snippets and insightful highlights become critical for keeping viewers engaged.”
Given the audience demographic, there is a need to interact with the fellow viewers on social media and other platforms to discuss the game, share opinions and predict results. It’s a high stakes scenario, given that there is significant spending capacity at play here – broadcast, gaming software, hardware and so on. Let’s not forget that viewers could be players themselves and thus may have ‘real skin in the game’ themselves.
These factors contribute to making it a complex challenge. Some of the challenges for broadcasters, operationally and technologically, are:
The question is what’s next, how can broadcasters prepare for it and get involved with the wider opportunities around the gaming industry. I’ll be speculating on this in part 2 of ‘The rise and rise of eSports’, being released next week. While you wait, discover more about successful sports broadcasting in the digital age from my previous blog, here.