Why Have Esports Gotten So Popular?
Video games are no longer for the isolated gamers sitting alone in their basement. Esports are collectively a thriving industry valued at over $900 billion USD. While some don’t get the appeal of watching digital players move around on a screen, many people are amped about Esports. They have their favorite teams and their favorite players. They attend LAN tournaments or tune in to streaming services to cheer their teams on. They use real money to bet on esports and guess game outcomes.
But what is it about the modern Esports industry that’s so appealing – and why is now the best time to get in on the game(s)?
Esports has learned from physical sports
The same models that work so well for franchises like the NFL also work for franchises like DOTA 2 and Overwatch League. Esports teams are composed of capable players who are scouted or win their league spots in tournament play. Teams are often organized into regional brackets, with the best teams from each region competing against one another in championship games. Teams are coached, have marketing staff, and sell merchandise so fans can represent their favorite team and players.
All the fan engagement that applies to a physical sport applies to an esport; fans can study their teams’ stats, predict draft picks and mid-season trades, and put together their own fantasy brackets. The same things that determine success for a physical team determine success for an esports team: individual talent, teamwork, coaching, and strategy. Whether you’re cheering a team on or betting on them or both, you can rest assured that your existing sports expertise will help you find the best team to root for.
Esports athletes are also influencers
Esports franchises have capitalized on the era of internet influencer culture, and many esports athletes maintain relationships to fans outside the playing season. Many (if not most) esports athletes stream on Twitch, post videos to YouTube, interact with fans and competitors on Twitter, and update followers about their lives on Instagram. esports fans have unparalleled access to their favorite athletes through a robust ecosystem of social media and streaming services, which means that fans can be engaged in their favorite esport and players 24/7 if they choose to do so.
That unparalleled access to players’ lives can impact how fans and commentators alike predict matches. If a player Tweeted about feeling ill before a match, that information might be valuable in predicting the match’s outcome. Predicting and even betting on esportsmatch outcomes becomes a whole new ballgame when fans have information about the actual humans behind the digital players on-screen.
Esports has gone mainstream
There’s no two ways about it –esports has exploded, and in part it’s thanks to the mainstreaming affect granted by big-name sponsors and wider availability of match viewing.
Every passing year sees a rise in the number of corporate sponsors of esports franchises, and the revenue streams only grow proportionately. T-Mobile, Toyota, Sephora, Chipotle, Comcast, Mastercard, and Nike are but a few of the huge-name brands who have invested time and revenue into advertising and marketing with various esports franchises. The relationship is often reciprocal; brand names appear during in-game esports events, and esports athletes often appear in the sponsoring company’s advertising.
The involvement of big-name brands in esports caused a sort of ripple effect that has drawn the industry fully into the mainstream. As a fledgling market, Esports events previously streamed only on online services such as Twitch, YouTube, and Major League Gaming. Now, however, fans can tune in to their favorite Esports events on primetime channels like ESPN and the Disney Channel. Not only are Esports now more accessible than ever, they’re also more accessible to a wider range of audiences. Now that any consumer in any market has access to Esports, we can only expect the revenues generated by this exciting gaming world to continue to explode.