At the end of last month, the great and the good of Asian online gaming met in Macau for the iGaming Asia Congress. One of the presentations that was extremely well received was our very own Bruce Elliott’s presentation on the growth of eSports as a sector of interest to online gaming professionals. Calvin Ayre did a short interview with Bruce that picks up some of the headlines, which you can view here, but given the level of interest I wanted to pick up on some more of the details from Bruce’s presentation.
After twenty minutes of questions at the end of the session, there were two clear areas of interest from the floor. The first of these revolved around some of the predictions included in Bruce’s presentation. As he said to Calvin Ayre, Bruce claimed that he wouldn’t be surprised given current levels of growth if an eSports tournament (such as a DotA 2 International or a League of Legends World Championship) could outstrip the SuperBowl in terms of number of viewers in as little as two years. I was as shocked as some of the audience members when I first discussed this with Bruce, but he calmly told me that all the data is already pointing in that direction.
One of the key pieces of evidence he showed in Macau was the recent announcement from Bwin that they expect League of Legends bets to outstrip bets on the UEFA Champion’s League in the 2015/2016 season. He also pointed to the fact that streaming platform Twitch is already taking fourth place in terms of peak internet traffic usage in the USA (ahead of Hulu and Facebook, with gaming company Valve in seventh) and that eSports prize pools are rapidly catching up with major international sporting and poker tournaments in value. Metrics in terms of audience size, viewer engagement, physical venue attendance, sponsorship values, bets placed, and prize pools are all ‘exploding’.
The second area of interest was advice for operators looking to get involved in this space, which is only natural given the promise shown by the growth figures. The major point Bruce made here is that computer gaming is a very specific sub-culture, which means entering the market will not be as easy as it was with physical sports. Although the fan base is extremely engaged, they will as a result also spot a company that doesn’t share its enthusiasm very quickly, which will lead to ostracism and poor results. Bruce explained that the success stories he has heard of so far of betting operators entering the space have all been built around companies taking on gamers and getting them into trading, not the other way around. This helps to align the company’s culture with the market to positive effect. Marketing will have much the same problem: you need to genuinely engage with an audience that is used to genuine interactivity and even ‘co-creation’.
If you would like a copy of Bruce’s presentation, or to discuss the eSports market further, please do get in touch using the details at the top of this article.