Gaming Sector Spotlight: Why you can't afford to ignore eSports

How can you get involved and what should you consider in this fast-growing market?
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Which sports events hand out the most prize money across the globe?

It may not be surprising to see the UEFA Champions League at number one with a whopping $65 million in winnings, followed by the FIFA World Cup ($31 million) and baseball’s World Series ($19 million).

What’s more astounding is, according to Nvidia, the fourth biggest prize pool comes from The International – an annual PC gaming tournament where teams of five battle it out on a game known as Dota 2. Analysts also predict there could be as many people watching eSports in 2017 as those who watch NFL now.

This year’s Dota 2 International tournament handed out $18.4 million (£11.9 million) in overall winnings. The final, won by BenQ-sponsored team Evil Geniuses in August 2015, was watched by around 20 million viewers on Steam Broadcasting, WatchESPN, Google’s YouTube and Amazon’s Twitch. Evil Geniuses took home $6.6 million (£4.2 million), making one of its players, 16-year-old Sumai, one of the world’s youngest and richest eSports professionals in the process.

We’re not quite at that level in the UK, but the eSports scene here is on the up. Organisations like ESL, Gfinity and Multiplay (which is now owned by retailer GAME) run frequent tournaments with prize pools in the thousands of pounds, and the League of Legends 4 Nations contest has helped put the UK and Ireland on the map. 

The League of Legends 2015 World Championship quarter finals are even taking place at Wembley’s SSE Arena this October, with tickets to the sold out event already going for hundreds of pounds on eBay.

Gfinity also hosts tournaments – and opened the UK’s first eSports arena earlier this year at the Vue Cinema Fulham Broadway multiplex, with a 600-person capacity.

So how can you get involved? Well, for vendors and retailers, sponsoring a successful team or tournament is an obvious way of getting your products in front of millions. However, PCR understands individual sponsorship deals can reach six or seven figures.

Some companies run entire tournaments instead (like the Intel Extreme Masters with eSports organisation ESL), with others entering their own branded teams into tournaments, instead of sponsoring one. PC peripheral specialist Roccat has its own eSports teams. But competition can be fierce. Overclockers UK dropped its League of Legends eSports team due to a disappointing run of results (however, the etailer has told PCR it is seriously committed to eSports and will return with a new team).

James Dean, ESL UK MD, tells PCR: “eSports is driving demand for performance and quality products due to the competitive nature of play. Teams are a great way to endorse products and tournaments pull together a large viewership to a focus demographic interested in competitive gaming.

“ESL is the only eSport company to run regional level tournaments as well as international ones. Sponsorship opportunities therefore can be targeted to specific demographics, which in turn helps the communities grow. ESL can also introduce brands to rising star teams.”

There’s also the opportunity for official branded products as well as GPUs and PCs designed for eSports.

However, like almost every sport, there’s also an ugly side. Some pros have this summer admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs to improve their reaction times. eSports leagues have since issued new anti-drug policies and tests, but this kind of scandal shows that eSports is still in its infancy.

Pro gamers have intensive schedules with many teams now living together in the same house, with poor diets and living habits. Players have been known to burn themselves out at a young age, with many pros retiring in their mid twenties, ending their careers short.

One thing’s for sure – competitive gaming is only going to get even bigger in years to come (it’s set to be worth $465 million by 2017, predicts Newzoo). So if your consumer-facing business is not already involved with eSports, then why not?

PCR's Sector Spotlight on Gaming is running throughout September - click here for more articles

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