Source: Vietnam eSports TV on Facebook.
Everybody wants a bit of the eSports cake; after all, there’s nothing quite as good for business as getting a brand out in front of an audience Newzoo expects to grow to 385 million people in 2017. With the amount of money companies like Coca-Cola and Audi are ploughing into eSports events and teams though, it’s hard to find anything to complain about. The arrival of the AFL at the beginning of May also served the secondary purpose of helping support the growth of eSports in Australia, offering gamers a chance at a permanent home in Melbourne; the AFL wants to create a new eSports tournament in the city.
The business structure underlying eSports is approaching that used successfully by football, basketball, and baseball; namely, if there’s space for a sponsor somewhere, sell it. To borrow another figure from Newzoo, the amount of money backers poured into eSports in 2016 reached $266m. With increasing demand for screen time from big brands, it’s hard to see that figure going anywhere but up.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The newest organisation to set out its stall for eSports is Formula One team McLaren, which is creating a new competition specifically to poach the winners to work on its simulator team. While it’s hard to describe the prize – a year’s contract at the McLaren Technology Centre – as relevant to eSports at all (the grand finale of World’s Fastest Gamer is a job interview) the racing outfit has promised that motorsport will “invest heavily” in eSports in the future.
Two more factors – betting and TV rights – are helping eSports merge with more conventional sports traffic on the internet. It’s not only traditional sportsbooks that are doing it either. Master Mazuma, a dedicated eSports betting website, lists betting markets like kills, assists, experience earned, and overall results for Call of Duty and Dota 2. It also provides a blog so punters can read about eSports betting before getting involved. Statista notes that $550m was spent on eSports betting in 2016.
Organizers can also charge a premium for a license to stream tournaments. While Twitch and YouTube are arguably the platforms most commonly associated with eSports, TV network ESPN is the first and second most important company in eSports according to Onalytica and recently began streaming FIFA events in partnership with EA. Newzoo adds that around $95m in media rights and $64m in tickets will be funneled into the eSports industry this year.
Source: Logitech G on Facebook.
Finally, There’s also a lot of value in eSports players themselves as marketing “influencers”, a type of person who has the power to sway an audience towards a particular product or activity. For example, a calculation done by The Drum suggests that each tweet sent by Olof Kajbjer, a Counter Strike player for Fnatic (sponsored by Monster and Seagate) is worth up to $745; that’s $700 more than an NBA Rookie of the Year candidate like Dario Saric.
Perhaps the most important thing to take away from the above is that those numbers are more of a baseline than a cap – eSports is still a very young industry, albeit one that trumps basketball for main event viewership. It might never reached Super Bowl levels of stardom but there’s already talk of letting eSports into the Olympic Games. Honest.