The business of eSports has gotten huge in recent years, to the tune of a great deal of generous publicity. It was recently written for what seems like the hundredth time that with viewership and revenue booming, eSports is set to compete with traditional sports in every sense of the word. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will get the same day-to-day attention in mainstream media or traditional online circles – but it does mean that league sizes, gamer revenues, viewership numbers, and the like will begin to resemble those of traditional professional sports leagues, rather than some niche activity that involves a big prize purse from time to time.
The truly exciting thing for those with any interest in eSports, though, is that it isn’t done yet. At this time, we can justifiably say that we’re essentially at the end of the first eSports “boom.” It has evolve from concept and hobby to booming, worldwide business, and has already dramatically exceeded some of the more cynical expectations that were out there early on. What we haven’t exactly seen yet, however, is a second growth spurt – which could well be on the horizon.
That doesn’t mean eSports businesses haven’t grown faster at some points than others. However, there hasn’t been a major catalyst for this growth in quite some time. That means that growth to this point has been a fairly natural evolution, with the industry building on what it already has and does. At the sort of unmarked crossroads we find ourselves at now though, there are a few key factors that seem to point fairly directly toward even further expansion of this industry:
Game Variety Increasing
There are a ton of games that are used in eSports competitions, but only perhaps 10 to 20 that really draw professional sports-level crowds and significant prize purses. This is going to change simply as a function of the natural expansion of the industry. The more eSports grows, the more people will take it seriously; the more people who are involved, the greater the diversity of interests; the greater the diversity of interests, the more demand there is for additional games and competitions. And, in turn, additional games and competitions will only garner more interest and activity. It should be a self-fulfilling cycle, perhaps for several years to come.
Betting Opportunity Expanding
Along with some markets in East Asia, Canada, and the UK, the United States is one of the very biggest eSports region, and one in which betting has only recently become a legal option for fans. Sports betting has become legal in New Jersey and a few other states and is moving slowly but surely across the U.S., and while this isn’t a specific eSports development, it gives millions and millions of people one more option for enjoying the phenomenon. Betting interest plays a role in every major sport, and eSports will be no exception. An expanding betting industry in the United States will play a key, direct role here.
Athletes, for lack of a better term, have been training themselves for some time already, and naturally the most experienced and talented gamers rise to the top of eSports. Now, however, we’re starting to see reports – with some frequency in fact – of schools setting up training programs for eSports athletes. As it has become a viable career and one requiring instruction, practice, and a full training regimen, schools have begun to accept it as a worthwhile activity for interesting and qualified students. Over several years, we can expect this to produce a whole generation of professional gamers, which should improve competition and possibly take eSports closer to a stage at which its teams and athletes are as renowned as those in other sports.
VR’s Commercial Gains
We’ve been hearing about “game-changing” VR for years now. Even back in 2016 it was said that Google’s standalone VR could be a game-changer – two full years before the concept of standalone VR became the hottest topic in the category. It is now true though that several of the top providers are releasing more affordable and/or convenient headsets, and thus making virtual reality a more realistic option for millions of consumers. The next year or two should show VR making genuine commercial gains, and this trend should coincide with both improving VR games and new initiatives in sports viewership. This means two things. The first is that VR games will get bigger within eSports, and bring a whole new component to the business. The second is that average consumers may soon have various options amounting to watching gaming contests in VR.
All of this together presents a great deal of potential. The eSports industry, it seems, has another growth spurt in it, bubbling just beneath the surface.