How esports is changing the way we consume sports

The esports market is growing and innovating rapidly, with new games, teams, and competitions entering the market on an ongoing basis. On top of that, we are seeing new ways to experience, interact with, and monetize live, esports streaming.

Esports competitions are looking at the much more profitable traditional sport leagues, and rightly so, the NFL is making $14B a year with an estimated $350M for esports in the US. But esports are innovating much more rapidly in enhancing the viewing experience, involving the viewers and creating fandom. The esports market is also attracting a younger audience compared to traditional sport fans — a group that is more likely to engage with the broadcast, the game, and the athletes as they watch.

Meanwhile, platforms like Twitch are focusing on ‘multiplayer entertainment,’ bringing viewers and content creators together using tools like chat, interactive panels, and stream overlay extensions. Having specialized in viewer engagement for many years, Ex Machina Group has a wealth of experience developing interactive live streams and Twitch Extensions that allow game developers and content creators to add an interactive layer to the Twitch experience, changing the way we consume esports.

Example of live predictions during the broadcast of an EA FIFA 19 Game on Twitch

Three ways to enhance the esports experience

Personalization
The first opportunity provided by this new type of sports entertainment is the personalization of the viewing experience based on viewer preferences. For example, Genvid Technologies offers a cloud-based game engine that runs in real-time, allowing the viewer to select their personal camera angle, change their interface, track players, and view a real-time map. FACEIT used this add-on during their CS:GO league in London as part of a premium pass that viewers could purchase. This type of extension makes the viewing experience more entertaining for the fans while creating a new revenue source for the leagues.

Gamification
The second opportunity is the gamification of the esport viewing experience and the opportunity to reward viewers for interacting with the stream. EA has already implemented this technology with their FIFA Global Series using a Twitch Extension that allows viewers to predict gameplay (‘Who will score the next goal?’), test their knowledge with trivia questions, and give feedback by answering polls. This way, viewers can test their knowledge to score points, rank on a leaderboard, and even win prizes without leaving the viewing experience. Other uses include real-time game stats, tournament information, and player lineups. Our experience shows that engaged viewers watch for longer periods of time and are more loyal to the content.

Engagement
The third opportunity is encouraging engagement by allowing viewers to pick sides and cheer for their favorite teams. For example, Blizzard collaborates with Twitch for The Overwatch League, viewers are encouraged to cheer using team-specific Bits inside a chat window. As a reward for using the feature, participants were able to unlock special emotes to be used in the chat, and the bits used to cheer for each team were displayed to increase friendly competition. It’s a clever way to drive fandom around teams and create competition between viewers.

Future developments

In the coming years, these developments are sure to evolve, and more leagues will start selling premium passes, launching loyalty programs, and supporting the broadcast with predictions and trivia. Currently, one of the most profitable (but challenging) opportunities is betting: predicting the outcome of a game and betting during a broadcast is already popular in China, but it’s still a tricky market in the US due to legislation and leagues wanting to avoid any hint of influencing or fixing the game.

‘Currently, one of the most profitable (but challenging) opportunities is betting’

As the esports market grows, major non-endemic brands are entering the market to sponsor events, with the goal of reaching young and involved audiences. The latest numbers from Newzoo show that the global esports economy was worth around $905.6 Million last year, with the majority of this growth coming from advertising. Brands see the value of interactive viewing experiences, along with the potential to reach a more loyal and engaged audience. Meanwhile, traditional sports teams are also investing in the market by signing up players and developing teams specifically for esports, bringing the two worlds even closer together. These investments will drive future innovation for the viewing experience.

‘Exciting gameplay, engaged viewers, and new digital platforms make esports the perfect area to develop monetizable viewing opportunities’

Over the years, Ex Machina Group has earned a proven track record as a reliable partner for brands, media, e-commerce, and esports companies. In 2009 Ex Machina supported Microsoft in launching 1 vs. 100 on Xbox, which turned out to be a big success as one of the first real-time, massive scale, shared experiences between players and viewers. Since then, Ex Machina has invested in tools for ultra-low latency live streaming, interactive entertainment, and live shopping experiences.

Exciting gameplay, engaged viewers, and new digital platforms make esports the perfect area to develop monetizable viewing opportunities using our technology. This is currently transforming esports, which in turn will forever change the way we consume sports.

About Ex Machina

When it comes to gamifying the viewing experience by combining trivia, predictions, betting, and shopping into a seamless experience, Ex Machina Group has a wealth of experience. A proprietary blend of live streaming, entertaining content, and interactive features in an ultra-low latency infrastructure has made the company a frontrunner in interactive esports entertainment. You can find more info on www.exmachinagroup.com.

P.S. Ex Machina is growing! We are looking for passionate developers, designers, and project managers in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Montreal. Consult all of our available positions on our website.

This article originally appeared in the February Edition of eSports Industry.