eSports is going to be around for a long time to come, and will continue to provide the channel with opportunities, says Intel.
In 2015 the electronic entertainment market reached $91 billion in terms of revenues, and is expected to reach about $107 billion in 2017, according to Newzoo data.
The PC segment constitutes as much as 37 per cent of this market, or about $34 billion.
But is eSports and high-end gaming another sector that is popular right now, but could fall away in years to come, as tablets did over the past few years? Could the eSports bubble burst?
Speaking to PCR at the Intel Extreme Masters eSports event and expo in Katowice, Poland, Frank Soqui – Intel’s enthusiast desktop group general manager – said: "I don’t think it’s going to burst, for a couple of reasons. I see gaming as a form of entertainment. It’s like asking: are movies going to go away? No, but you can transform the way you experience it and you’re seeing VR do the same thing.
"I don’t think people stop playing games. Every time you see us produce the next generation performance or next level graphics, or experience VR, as soon as you get that tip of the iceberg usage model, people are going to take VR everywhere for example.
"That puts a tremendous load on that platform – people are going to want more and there won’t be enough. I would say the future of VR is training and education – and haptics. eSports is its own thing, it will transform, but it won’t be going away."
Soqui also mentioned wearables and haptics that can enhance the VR experience.
Ralf Reichert, CEO of Turtle Entertainment and ESL, said during the IEM press conference earlier in the day, that eSports audiences are still heavily underestimated and are continuing to grow.
"Viewership is set to grow ten to 12 per cent over next few years. There are occasional viewers, then there are enthusiasts, hardcore fans that tune in every day and consume up to two hours of content," he said.
Soqui also added that Intel’s Extreme Masters limited edition gaming PCs have exceeded demand. These were announced last week and several OEM partners are selling the systems.
"We took the modest goal of selling 15,000 units and it looks like we’re probably going to exceed that," he told PCR. "The initial uptake was very, very encouraging.
"If you think about 15,000 PCs, all of these are enthusiast PCs, so the CPU is going to be $300 or higher at retail. That’s around $4.5 million so far. Wow. So just from being here and giving the players want they want, we didn’t have to push it.
"We think the special edition IEM PC helped a lot. People like coming here, they like the merchandising.
"One manufacturer was selling a top-end IEM PC for $6,000, they only thought they would sell five but those five are already sold out. They had to go figure out how to get some more. So it’s exceeded our expectations and just in CPU sales, that’s pretty good."
Soqui said that Intel has marketing co-funding programmes available for retailers big and small to sell the systems.
He also spoke up the 6th generation Core processor platform for gaming.
"’If you’re going to game, you need to do it on a 6th generation core processor platform. We’re going to push more cores into the platform, so you will see us increase our core count," he commented. "You can’t get by in gaming with a wimpy PC."
Soqui talked up the PC gaming eSports streaming boom, too, saying that over 20 billion minutes per month are spent broadcasting. "People are monetising the way they interact with each other," he said.
George Woo, Intel’s brand partnerships and sponsorships marketing manager, also told PCR that Intel is considering bringing an Intel Extreme Masters eSports event to the UK.
Intel and ESL already hosts separate annual IEM events – one in the Spodek Arena in Katowice, Poland, and the other in San Jose’s SAP Center. There’s also IEM Taipei.
"The UK, from a sales and grow opportunity for Intel, is a critical market," he said. We have taken CPL (Cyberathlete Professional League) to the UK back in the day, in the old days, and we would love to bring IEM to the UK.
"It’s about partnerships – it’s expensive to do those things. But eventually we would love to bring it to the UK if we can find a partner, a show partner. It’s a strong market for Intel."
On IEM in Katowice, Woo said: "We wanted to create the most prestigious eSports tournament in the world and rival other sports. After a decade, I think we’ve succeeded.
"Pro gaming will transition to a mainstream phenomenon."
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