Wednesday, May 24, 2017
by Michael Hillard

The rise and rise of eSports – why advertisers have started taking notice

There has always been a wide and engaged audience with the video games industry – I’m old enough to remember having to make the very difficult decision in what I deem the first console war between the Sega Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo – and nagging my parents to death to get me one. As I grew up, like millions of others, I spent more and more time immersed in these games, upgrading over the years through the latest PlayStation, Xbox and PC models, playing anything from offline single-player games to online multiplayer battles against hundreds of opponents. Generations of kids, dreaming and wishing that they could play video games all day and every day, forever – for many, it was the dream career path.

Now the childhood dream is a reality for many: those deemed good enough have become professional players playing for organisations and teams in million-dollar tournaments across the world through eSports. Games such as League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and FIFA 17 pull in millions of viewers during major tournaments and hundreds of thousands for some of the lower-tier tournaments. Arena crowds totalled 173,000 people at the recent ESL and Intel Extreme Masters Katowice series, with more than 46 million unique online views. To put that into context, that’s 10 million more than the Trump inauguration TV audience.

The numbers are impressive and continue to grow year-on-year, and the boom hasn’t gone unnoticed. eSports teams have always had sponsorship, but these have been within the computer industry, with big brands such as Corsair, Razer, Intel and ASUS all PC/computer-based companies. What’s interesting is that some of the more recent additions over the last 12-18 months, such as energy drink companies G FUEL, Red Bull and Monster, have fully integrated themselves into the video game culture – Audi is now the lead sponsor for the CS:GO team Astralis, and like with any competitive activity, gambling sites have started to dip their toes in, with Betway™ linking up with one of the larger eSports names, Ninjas in Pyjamas.

Many organisations and players are also being signed by existing sports clubs. F.C. Copenhagen have recently bought an eSports roster called North, and many Premier League, MLS and European football clubs have been snapping up FIFA players to represent their clubs at eSports tournaments.

The Global eSports economy is estimated to grow by 41% in 2017 to $696 million and will reach $1.49 billion by 2020 according to Newzoo, with an estimated audience population of 385 million people. To many of you still reading this, this might seem ridiculous but watching your favourite eSports team/player is no different to any other sport, the field of play is just a virtual one.

It doesn’t just stop at eSports. Live streaming platforms like Twitch.tv have changed the lives of many casual players, who have successfully combined their skills of being a relatively good player with a good persona, tapping into everyone’s guilty pleasure of enjoying a bit of reality TV. Twitch provides many streamers with a steady income and fan base, many leading to merchandise opportunities, sponsorship deals and brand collaborations. The platform is there for anybody and everybody – in fact, there are thousands of people streaming right now, dreaming of becoming the next community celebrity. I could start my own channel today! Not that anyone would watch…

Streamers such as Summit 1G and Dr Disrespect pull in anywhere between 15,000 – 30,000 viewers daily and share many of the same sponsors of the professional eSports players, from Monster Energy to Old Spice.

This audience of predominantly millennials are the current and next-generation of customers for many brands, and although they’re already relatively savvy to marketing techniques, they will form a different type of loyalty to a brand. You’ll forever be known as the brand that helped their passion and community grow, the brand that supported their culture from these early beginnings.

eSports and the streaming culture go hand-in-hand; the two have supported each other’s growth and it looks like they’re here to stay. Many game developers will even start to approach their game differently, creating bespoke games for these platforms. We’ve already seen this with the recent launch of Player Unknowns Battlegrounds, currently released in early access (this means it’s not finished yet) it has already sold 2 million+ copies, with anywhere between 75,000 – 100,000 concurrent views every day on Twitch. As a competitive team shooter, it may even have legs as an eSport further into its development.

As advertisers here at Denfield, it’s a whole new and exciting world to explore – with the right message delivered to an engaged audience such as this, a successful campaign within this community could be game-changing!