Esports Edging its Way into Mainstream Consciousness

Esports continues to edge its way into mainstream consciousness and is becoming one of the most coveted marketing channels for brands seeking to make an impact in gaming.

By Luke Pearce, Futuresource Consulting

The competitive gaming industry is expected to breach the $1 billion threshold in 2020, an accomplishment for a largely grassroots powered industry, but a niche in the wider entertainment business with traditional media and streaming services valued over 250 times this amount. The hype surrounding esports has yet to slow, and with the gaming market behind it expected to be valued at close to $230 billion by 2023, its plain to see why consumer electronics brands and other household names are keen to find their way in and profit from the business at large.

The active fanbase of competitive gaming grew by 18% in 2019, with 480 million fans tuning in regularly to watch gamers compete in organised tournaments. With the ‘digital native’ crowd of 16-35 year olds accounting for the largest share of regular esports viewers, marketeers are keen to leverage esports as a means of reaching the demographic. With traditional advertising forms becoming less effective with younger consumers, thanks to cord cutting and wider trends in digital media, esports has become an effective means of targeted advertisement. Sponsorship has become big business, with endemic and non-endemic brands alike bidding for prime sponsorship positions and tournament naming rights.

The amount of time dedicated to watching esports is growing alongside the fanbase, with a total of 5 billion hours spent watching tournaments online in 2019. Esports is intensifying competition for consumers’ free time amongst entertainment providers, with Netflix recently identifying gaming as bigger competition than other subscription video on demand services, in terms of consumer viewing time. Esports is a digital native form of entertainment, with most of the content consumed online and whilst there have been attempts to bring competitive gaming to linear channels, the traditional online platforms remain the most popular. These include Amazon owned Twitch, YouTube Gaming and up and coming platforms such as Mixer, as well as a host of Chinese platforms that cater to the vast swathes of Chinese viewers.

Beyond major headline events, CE companies are increasingly using esports demonstrations as a marketing tool within gaming exhibitions such as Gamescom, GDC and E3. These events allow incumbent companies and newcomers alike to showcase their ranges of professional tier gaming accessories. In an environment where slim advantages can make such dramatic differences to success, the wide cross section of esports fans who also play games are a highly receptive consumer demographic for companies offering best in category gaming accessories. Showcasing products through esports enables companies to reach fans with authenticity, a trait which this fanbase responds to with great positivity.

A key talking point during CES and throughout 2020 will be the CE industries expansion into gaming. With a host of products launched at CES focusing on entering the gaming market and expanding existing product lines, competition for media attention and consumer spending will be fierce. The rich potential for gaming is important for CE’s next wave of growth, as many CE products have stagnated and become less relevant for consumers living in a digital and smartphone focused era. However, gaming and esports are complex markets with highly engaged consumers critical of inauthenticity. For those who manage to break into gaming, the rewards are potentially huge.

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