The Drum predicts that eSports will be one of the top media trends to shape the coming decade. With an industry that’s predicted to break more than $1.5 billion in revenue next year, eSports are hotter than ever before. Activate notes that, globally, the industry could scale to $7 billion by 2023. From deeper engagement in schools to the development of new investment and technology opportunities, 2020 promises to be red-hot as innovations evolve and viewership continues to grow. If you’re curious about the trends that will shape the eSports market in the year ahead, here’s a closer look at key areas to watch.
Global Interest in eSports Grows Explosively
One of the biggest trends that the eSports industry faces in 2020 is simply the reality of explosive growth. According to Venturebeat, 70% of people between 16 and 64 play some form of gaming. That also maps to an increase in viewership, they note. A new report from CTA predicts that U.S. viewership will reach 22 million in 2022, and global viewership will climb to 674 million by the same year.
As with any area scaling fast, this will mean new broadcast opportunities, emerging platforms, increased headline coverage, and wider mainstream awareness of eSports opportunities. Activate found that the greatest growth is being driven by younger consumers, and that eSports dominates the time that these demographics spend watching sports.
Individual Gamer Brands Become Influencer Powerhouses
As awareness of eSports grows, the power of team and gamer brands will grow. Whether it’s friendly rivalries for favorite eSports teams or the rise of individual players as influencers, this dynamic promises to shift communications opportunities as well as financials in the year ahead. Tapping into the massive promotional opportunities—and therefore financial opportunities—requires having a well-crafted brand.
Kantar predicts that “as coverage of eSports expands into traditional media…eSports players will become well-known celebrities and influencers in their own right. With such a wide array of options, it will be important for advertisers to properly evaluate the ROI potential and brand fit. eSports has arrived; it’s now time for media owners and advertisers to learn the rules and get ready to play the game.” Savvy players will work hard to monetize and build their brands, while marketers for brand partners will find new ways to collaborate.
eSports Practically Prints Money
As eSports continues to grow, money is pouring into the sector. There are three core areas that are expanding quickly: investments, advertising, and sponsorship revenues. Barrons predicts that in the U.S., for example, ad spend will grow to over $213 billion in 2020. In addition, Deloitte reports that more than $4.5 billion dollars was invested in esports in 2018 alone. As 2020 gets underway, it’s possible that the money associated with esports will surpass estimates and revenues from areas such as corporate partnerships, new platforms, and other areas continue to grow. Newzoo also suggests that broadcast deals are an important area to watch in high-dollar media growth opportunities.
Greater Interactivity Drives Greater Network Demand
Ovum predicts that greater demands for interactivity will increase the demand on network infrastructure. The introduction of 5G will also become a central component of the eSports competitive landscape.
Digital Journal agrees, noting that the explosive popularity of eSports has driven a larger focus on community: “The gaming industry in 2020 will rely on creating a community as a driving force more than ever. With in-game chat options, influencers, apps, and forums, gamers have more channels to join a larger discussion. Social media and forums are connecting players to each other and the game, creating a deeper level of engagement. While ‘interactive’ leads most people to think about VR or AR options, with the big focus and opportunity available to create communities now this will be the true way that the gaming experience becomes more interactive.”
For professional gaming leagues or schools starting an eSports team, there’s an increasing demand to provide the infrastructure needed to enable seamless engagement, interactivity between players and fans, and to do so in a fast, secure, and reliable virtual environment. Investing in infrastructure will enable connected communities, enhanced gaming experiences, and ultimately, a much broader fan base.
Technology Is in the Spotlight
Advances in technology in 2020 will continue to support eSports growth. Advanced Television reports that, “The global esports PC installed base at universities and colleges is expected to reach the 100k units mark in 2020, while an installed base of another 15k PCs for K–12 schools is forecast for the same year. While the market is already quite mature in North America and South Korea, other countries primarily across Western Europe and APAC—most importantly China—are catching up rapidly.”
In addition to the opportunities created by school installations, innovation in technology platforms will expand eSports as we know it. From immersive VR experiences to training stations, a host of new viewing options and features onsite at professional esports events will lead to next-level customer and fan experiences.
With eSports explosive growth and major innovation on the horizon, whether that’s investing in teams or developing the latest technologies, 2020 promises to be an exciting year. Organizations that don’t yet have a place in the fast-growing landscape will have opportunities to take part in the most innovative aspect of today’s sports world. We’re excited to watch how these trends—and many others—take shape, and we’ll be sharing them with you throughout the coming year on the blog, so check back often for updates.