ESports is a new form of interactive gaming that is seeing phenomenal growth and creating massive marketing opportunities. Smart brands are already benefiting from one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In 2018, total eSports global viewership jumped to 380 million, with revenue reaching over $900 million. Smart brands are starting to wake up to the fact that eSports is a new business that provides unique marketing opportunities. It has never been better than now to take advantage of eSports marketing while it is still affordable and relatively untapped.
Which are the most popular eSports Games?
There are several kinds of eSports games which have made an impact. The games are often played in organised competitions featuring professional players and there are different leagues around the world. The genre evolved from console gaming with the significant difference of competing with other players in real time and at various locations. Among the most popular games, these are the front runners, League of Legends (LoL) is the first that comes to mind, along with Defense of the Ancients (DOTA 2), Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Hearthstone.
Online Casinos & eSports
Online casinos and sports betting sites have started to include eSports betting as a viable option. It provides a comprehensive package alongside casino games and sports betting. Casino players have been getting more interested in this new genre, and there are betting odds on the players and teams participating in major competitions. The better online casinos have started to wake up to the potential that eSports betting and streaming offer. It is a natural choice for betting and provides a new and fresh approach. Just as one would bet on his or her favourite football or hockey team, the same can be done with eSports. Watching players as the games are streamed live can create exceptional betting opportunities, including live betting during the events as they unfold.
Massive Live Viewership attracts Smart Brands
ESports attracts huge audiences worldwide, and an incredible amount of followers and viewers who watch eSports games and tournaments streamed live. League and tournament prizes frequently reach astronomical heights running into millions of dollars. Smart brands are exploring ways to take advantage of the phenomenon. Sponsorship deals are getting bigger and better, and the fight for international media rights is taking off. Big brands like Pepsi, Audi and Gillette, are investing in eSports targeting males between the ages of 21 and 35, an age bracket hard to reach with traditional advertising.
The Esports ecosystem has several revenue streams fuelling its growth and increasing revenues. There are publisher fees, advertising sponsorship deals, ticket sales, merchandising and media rights. 2017 saw overall eSports revenue reach about $695 million, with realistic predictions pointing towards $1.5 Billion by 2020. 2017 audiences consisted of a total of 385 million, split 50/50 between regular and occasional viewers. Revenue from sponsorships topped US$265 million with US$150 spent on eSports advertising. While these figures are still rather modest, and eSports is still only a niche, its exposure and growth is set to change all that and push it into the mainstream. By 2020, sponsorship spending is set to increase to $655 million, while expenditure on eSports ads will soar to $224 million.
The Rise and Rise of Twitch
The rise of eSports goes hand in hand with Twitch and to a lesser degree YouTube. As games are streamed live, players interact with viewers creating a unique system where the audiences can communicate with players via live chat and watch them on live video as they play the games. This creates a unique platform of communication and access to the star players. Twitch has been around just six years and was taken over by Amazon in 2014, for US$970 million. The site allows gamers to stream themselves in real time and can boast of over 2 million unique streamers a month and nearly 10 million active viewers spending an average of 106 minutes each on the site every day.
The Route to Success: Twitch
Players recognise a clear route to eSports success. They need to build a following on Twitch in order to get noticed by teams and the big brands to attract a sponsorship deal or advertising revenue. Twitch streams the biggest eSports tournaments and competitions around the world thereby drawing massive viewership. Twitch is free and easily accessible from anywhere in the world. Its secret weapon is the source of income it manages to generate from its advertising revenue model. The top 17,000 Twitch streamers which take in professional players, get to share in the advertising revenue with the unique revenue sharing system adopted by Twitch. The players decide when the ads run during the steaming of their game. A well-known player may attract thousands of viewers when practising on Twitch. He might actually ask the audience to view the ad while he has a two-minute break. This honest and straightforward approach to advertising is appealing and genuine, thereby creating better results due to the direct link.
The Major Players
The major benefactors are the game developers such as Activision Blizzard, who created Call of Duty and StarCraft, two popular games which were acquired by Major League Gaming in 2015. MLG is the longest-running eSports league in the USA and Canada. Riot Games, who are the makers of the seminal League of Legends LoL, which is owned by the Chinese internet giant Tencent, who also runs the major League of Legends Championship Series. Another global brand is the Electronic Sports League, or ESL, based in Germany. It was founded in 2000 and hosts several major events around the world.