ESPORTS 101 For Brands
What is Esports?
At Esports Alliance we are often asked, “What is Esports?”
Esports is roughly defined as the ecosystem or “world” of online multiplayer video games where two opposing sides compete until there is a winner and a loser. Esports can take the form of a video game that is a “first person shooter” reminiscent of an action movie or Esports can be a virtual strategy game that is a hybrid offspring of chess with the board game Risk.
For some viewers watching an Esports event is boring and esoteric…the equivalent of watching paint dry. After all, it is a group of individuals sitting at computers playing a game that is projected onto a big screen or live on a video streaming service.
For others it is the equivalent of watching Pablo Picasso paint a masterpiece or watching your favorite football team play in the NFL.
It is this dichotomy that makes the concept of “Electronic Sports”… “E-sports” so divisive to the American general public, especially older generations. While everyone can appreciate the physical skill required to run the 40-yard sprint (because we are after all are human bipeds)…the skills necessary to utilize Terran Goliath tanks to defeat a Zerg Hydralisk assault in a virtual world is not as easily understood or relatable. (For those of you who do not know what a “Zerg” is…this article is for you!)
Why should anyone care about Esports?
The second question that comes to mind, “Why should I care about this?” or more bluntly, “Who the heck wants to watch a bunch of kids who can’t even buy a beer sit around and play on the computer for five hours?”
Image from the LA Times
The truth is that “you shouldn’t” UNLESS you are trying to sell something, advertise to, influence, or in any way impact anyone under the age of 35 who played some sort of video game growing up as a kid….which would be a large portion of the millennial population in the United States and for most 1st and 2nd world nations. Go to any public transportation hub in the United States such as an airport or a train and in the words of @Gary Vaynerchuck“shoulder creep” on all of the people on their phones or computers. A large number of the people you see are playing some sort of game…be it Candy Crush or League of Legends.
According to the NY Daily News in 2014 , the average gamer over the age of 13, plays approximately 6.3 hours a week playing games. At the same time the average American watches 20 hours of television a week. The KEY DIFFERENCE is that television is passive advertising while advertising in the video game industry occurs when there is already engagement from the consumer. Add the amount of time that Esports fans spend watching video games on platforms such as the mecca of video game streaming “Twitch” to the 6.3 hours a week spent actually playing games and you have a direct competitor to television as an advertising platform. Additionally, because there is user engagement, more targeted advertising can occur. Television on the other hand has been found to reduce user engagement by causing viewers brains to go into a form of “auto” mode. Ultimately as a brand, you need to “advertise in the year we live in” and go where the eye-balls of the consumers go….which is Esports.
“The point is this: See where consumer attention is going and follow it. Consumers are spending the majority of their time on social, so you need to meet them their.” ~ @Gary Vaynerchuck
If your business is about “Dating for those over 55+”, then the argument can be made that today Esports is not the advertising platform for you. You would be better served advertising on T.V. and other venues. But if your business does anything else, than you need to know what Esports is and how the “Esports Ecosystem” works.
In a world where everyone wants “Data”, Esports produces more than you can imagine. Due to its virtual nature, online streaming, and general structure, Esports arguably produces more data points than any other form of “sport” in the world. The challenge of course is not just collecting the data but as well the insight gained from the data and the effectiveness of application.
Where Esports is today?
The phenomenon of Esports in the United States is relatively new. In South Korea IT IS THE NATIONAL SPORT. Go to South Korea, turn on the television, and you will see channels dedicated 24/7 to viewing video games. In Europe, Esports has been growing for the last 10 years from an “underground” activity to something that rivals FIFA…or “soccer” for the Americans reading this.
In the United States, Esports is going through a period of adoption. Currently in its “infancy”, Esports is trying to find a place in the attention span of Americans. Competing against traditional monoliths such as Football and Baseball, Esports is also fighting for time and space against niche competitors such as the World Series of Poker and the UFC.
Additionally, the challenge of how Esports content is being consumed complicates the understanding of Esports. Whereas the NFL or UFC is primarily consumed by physical attendees of the sport, those watching on television, and those streaming online through a payment model…the majority of Esports viewing occurs in free media streaming platforms and very little on television or in physical attendance at the event.
Where Esports is going?
Ultimately like every other form of entertainment, it is the fan base and community that will decide the future of Esports. No amount of money will make people watch an activity or sport when there are so many other available forms of entertainment accessible now. A good example to learn from is the XFL. Esports in the United States will succeed or fail based off the whims of the consumer…like all businesses.
Where can you find out more information about Esports?
There have only recently been an increase in the knowledge and interest in Esports. On Medium there are just a few authors covering this topic. One of them Matthew Bradley did an excellent 4-part series on Esports which can provide a rich amount of information on Esports.
For more information there is the publisher “The Nexus” which has a large number of guest writers who focus on specifics within the Esports industry. To see what Esports is like in Europe look at ESL Gaming. For a much more critical look at Esports I would recommend Jon Pan () who has produced over a dozen articles on Esports…and is coincidently “Followed” on Medium by my favorite business hero “@Gary Vaynerchuck.”
Outside of Medium there are dozens of newspaper articles and publication on Esports. Be warned that the Esports ecosystem in the United States is in its infancy and there have been and will continue to be dramatic changes in this industry in the next two years due to technological innovations such as Adjusted Reality and Virtual Reality to streaming video applications such as “Twitch” to players unions like there are in the NFL.
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