Esports is poised to be the next billion-dollar industry to watch. Far from its humble arcade roots, competitive gaming is presently shaking up the sports and entertainment worlds as we know them. The astounding success of Fortnite has been pivotal for the general public to fully appreciate the unstoppable force that is esports. Fortnite: Battle Royale now has more than 250 million registered players. This summer, the Fortnite World Cup boasted the largest winnings in esports history, with 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf taking home $3 million for his first prize title.
Last month, Intel announced that it would host a World Open to coincide with the 2020 summer Olympic games in Tokyo, a step which many fans hope will bring esports closer to being recognised as an official Olympic sport. As esports tournaments continue to sell out stadiums and coliseums, elaborate venues are starting to be built for purpose. Ireland’s first esports research lab opened this summer at the University of Limerick with the aim to study and advance the performance of players. “Top professional players can earn millions of dollars per annum,” says Dr Mark Campbell, the lab’s director. “However, unlike other professional sports, there has been very little application of sports science to the participants to date.”
The momentous growth in esports presents a lucrative opportunity for brands. Nissan has invested in the esports trend by applying the design principles found in many of its vehicle seats to create three esports gaming chair concepts. These types of partnerships mark an evolution of esports in its ability to capture a broader range of brand attention. While most of the industry’s initial key sponsors were technology and energy drink brands, nowadays brands in categories from craft beer, to snacking, and to personal care are keen to get involved.
The rise of esports is also an indicator of how quickly the entertainment landscape generally is changing. Youtube Gaming and Amazon’s Twitch, which allow players to connect with their fans directly by live-streaming their play, achieve millions of daily views. It is estimated that more than 100 million people tuned in for the League of Legends World Cup in Paris earlier this month, rivalling the viewership of the Super Bowl. Nike debuted team jerseys for the occasion, while Louis Vuitton designed the travel case for the championship trophy.
As most fans are aged 16-34, aligning with esports gives brands the chance to connect with a demographic of young people that are notoriously difficult to reach through traditional advertising, and to build positive brand associations and grow up alongside. Most importantly, like traditional sports, esports is a community built around shared passion. Tapping into these fervent networks may unlock word-of-mouth marketing that could cement a brand’s connection to this exponentially growing industry for years to come.