Competitive gaming has never been so popular, and this is reflected in a growing presence across mainstream media.
This growth is not a fad. It is disruptive and transformational – and it is only going to get bigger. Here I set out three ways in which esports will grow even further in the coming years.
Creating a new business vertical
The most progressive sports rights holders are going to use esports to create a new business vertical in the virtual space. This will drive tens of millions of additional revenue into the sport. Put simply it means that all the rights you have in the real world are now available for sale in the virtual world.
Formula 1 is already ahead of the pack. More than three years ago F1 presented Gfinity with a challenge; to design, develop and deliver an esports competition that brought new fans into the sport. Fast forward three years and today the F1 Esports New Balance Series is reaching millions of new consumers – 70% of whom are under the age of 34 - creating a brand touchpoint and experience that is relevant to gamers.
Don’t expect these new fans to all pitch up at Silverstone or Monza, though. Esports will not necessarily make them fans of the physical race, but it will make them appreciate and buy into the brand values of F1 and engage with something that they previously viewed as not being for them.
Competitive gaming entertainment will grow the market
Take the Twitch Prime Crown Cup as an example. This global celebrity gaming exhibition, created to celebrate Amazon Prime Day, took place in July. It featured a four-hour celebrity FIFA 19 live event. Created and hosted by Gfinity at our Fulham Broadway studio, stars from entertainment and sports – including Robbie Williams, Thierry Henry, Sir Mo Farah, Alex Scott and a host of others battled it out for bragging rights. One of the world’s biggest companies was using gaming to excite and engage with a younger, global audience.
Imagine a world where top football stars are taking on their peers from basketball or baseball. And grime artists are playing against reality TV stars. All in a structured league, across a host of games, generating amazing content that is part game play, part entertainment.
There are many examples of how this is will manifest itself. With new non-endemic brands entering the space, we will see the level of creativity and story-telling be elevated to a higher plane. And in the process give more people a reason to care. This will bring even more fans into the competitive gaming world.
Gaming for education
Thirdly, gaming will further establish itself in the mainstream will be through its use for education, as a tool to teach new skills to younger generations. For example, there are already programmes out there using play-based learning to teach children parts of the new Computing Curriculum.
As this expands, esports will be used to engage with young people who might otherwise feel that the schooling system is working against rather than for them. We are already talking to local councils and government bodies about creating gaming solutions to keep children in school. Progressive thinking will show that by embracing gaming, children will learn strategic skills, problem solving, teamwork, analytics and so on through a medium that they feel innately comfortable with.
The rules are still being written in the competitive gaming space. And that’s what makes it so interesting.