Esports has grown exponentially over the past 10 years and this trend shows no sign of stopping. Here we take a look at how this rapidly growing sport and cultural trend is affecting associated markets.
One area that has been strongly impacted by the development of Esports is the consumer laptop market. While gaming-oriented laptops have always been available, their overall market share has historically been very small. All of this has changed over the past 10 years or so, and now, gaming laptops represent the fastest growing games console sector. Valued at $1 billion globally in 2013, gaming laptops now represent $12 billion in sales as of 2020. Companies like Razer and Asus’ ROG (Republic of Gamers) sub-brand were once niche names with minimal reach. Nowadays these companies are recognized more generally as manufacturers of performance computers and attract buyers from outside of the traditional gaming community. Razer’s line of Blade laptops is now favored by creatives, artists, and producers looking for hardware of comparable build quality and aesthetics to Apple’s MacBook Pro.
Another sector that is experiencing a direct impact from the surge in popularity of Esports is that of traditional sports media. In a sense, that is an intriguing example of reverse influence. In this past decade, Esports has been looking up to the format and presentation of major sports competitions and media outlets for inspiration. Esports competitions like Riot Games’ League of Legends Championship Series (which is the biggest competitive gaming event in North America), have been increasingly seeking to structure their media coverage in a format recognizable to viewers of ESPN. In a sign that Esports is coming of age. Riot Games spent much of 2020 building a brand new studio that, rather than imitating Fox Sports or NBC, looks to its own unique origins in the gaming community for inspiration.
Streaming platform Twitch, which has been under the ownership of Amazon since 2014, has become the premier online venue for the Esports community. Large traditional sporting organizations, including the NFL, NBA, and UFC, have all been investing in developing an active presence on Twitch and in the larger Esports community. Some might point to this being little more than an outgrowth of the kind of marketing collaboration we’re used to seeing with game spin-offs of major leagues, like the NFL Madden games. But other analysts are not too sure. Some point to the fact that Twitch’s social integration makes it a uniquely collaborative and dynamic venue for all sports, digital or otherwise.
Established gaming platform PokerStars is known for hosting both physical and Esports competitions and has been carving out a niche for a number of years. Their Stadium Series poker tournament, launched in 2020 and hosted on Twitch, currently holds the record on the platform for the largest prize payout awarded, running to the sum of $52 million. In what can be considered a nod to the company’s embrace of the collaborative Esports space, they have entered 2021 with a relaunch of the PokerStars name centered around the slogan “I’m In”. Commenting on this, a spokesperson for the platform states that it places emphasis on the brand’s wish to foster a vibrant gaming community of like-minded players.
Even top-tier football clubs like AC Milan and Arsenal are seeking to establish themselves on Twitch. They join Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus as representatives of big-name European football looking to expand into the Esports sector. Streaming services like Twitch are not subject to licensing restrictions in the same way as televised media. This enables these clubs to gain some agency over the broadcasting of their own games, both classic and current. Juventus has also been taking steps to establish an authentic presence on Twitch with its new game show called Pitch for Twitch. The show pits prospective Juventus super-fans against one another in a series of knock-out trivia rounds with the winner to be offered a job as a presenter on the channel. This collaborative marketing is something we’ve come to see relatively often on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, but Twitch is uniquely well suited to accommodate it as it is built entirely around participatory video content.