E-sports continues to grow, but the market is still under construction

22 February 2018

Zooming in on the Nordic market, Mediavision’s analysis “Nordic e-sports & gaming Insight 2017/2018” shows that e-sports is becoming a staple among consumers. Almost 3 in 4 e-sports/gaming viewers in the Nordics (73%) stated an interest in a specific e-sports venue (for example Dreamhack) in Q4 2017. This shows that the venues themselves have become popular, and e-sports is no longer simply “games played professionally” but an entire eco-system of value creation, for consumers and actors alike. If you wish to gain more insights on the subject, please contact us or order the analysis right away.

On a global scale, e-sports has been making waves as well. Traditional sports actors are also getting in on the action. This can, for example, be illustrated by how Turner Broadcasting and IMG’s e-sports tournament series Eleague is marketed to viewers. For instance, much like in professional traditional sports, Turner has promoted Eleague by building personalities and generating storylines around teams and players. And evidently this is paying off; Eleague recently, during an event in Boston, broke the record for most concurrent viewers (1.1 million on Amazon-owned platform Twitch). The event was featuring games publisher Valve’s first-person-shooter-game Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).

While Eleague is proof that a tournament series outside of traditional sports can be commercially successful, the e-sports scene is still very much under construction. Major League Baseball is one of the traditional sports actors that is looking at the e-sports market. However, Jamie Leece, VP of games and virtual reality at MLB Advanced Media, expresses concern regarding the profitability of e-sports contests. He points out that the products and organizations around e-sports can profit, but that the contests themselves are still struggling. Leagues and IP holders have yet to solve the puzzle, according to Leece.

Turner and IMG might be on track to success with Eleague. But game publisher Blizzard Entertainment has taken another approach; creating its own e-sports league in-house for its blockbuster game Overwatch. Inspired by the strategy of Eleague, Blizzard has also adopted the proven format of traditional broadcasting when creating Overwatch League. The teams are tied to geographical regions with names such as Seoul Dynasty, London Spitfire and Florida Mayhem.  Also, while fighting games are more of a niche market, games publisher Capcom, best known for the Street Fighter series, has been hosting its own in-house league Capcom Pro Tour since 2013. If these moves prove successful, and the price of distribution rights continues to increase, more publishers might follow.

However, breaking into to the upper echelon of e-sports is no small feat. For years the same titles have comfortably topped the viewing lists (Valve’s CS:GO and Dota 2 and Riot Games’ League of Legends). It has taken hard work and huge investments for the publisher Blizzard to finally launch its own in-house-league. Overwatch is one of few games to really rival the top e-sports titles in popularity. The success of Overwatch could set an example for other publishers, but most likely in-house and independent leagues will co-exist.

For more information, contact Sixten Ekström, communicator at Mediavision.