This February, The Fintech Times is taking a deep dive into the world of gametech. Grab your headsets and controllers and plug in to hear about the latest tech and celebrities influencing the market to the development of eSports and much more.
Despite the fact that eSports viewers are due to top 29.6 million a month in 2022, an 11.5 per cent increase from 2021 forecast by Insider Intelligence, eSports adoption very much remains outside the realms of the mainstream limelight.
With audiences expected to reach 577.2 million by 2024, reflecting a 7.7 per cent CAGR, many may ask what steps the industry can take to make itself more pronounced within the field of gaming, and these are the questions we’ll be aiming to answer today.
Here we discuss with industry experts, including Palco, BADASSStudios, Champlain College and Game Gym, how the notion of eSports can push itself forward to become a dominant force within the industry, to ensure that it receives the recognition and respect that it is due.
From our conversations, it appears that recognition, accessibility and acceptance could become the two main driving forces of this mission, as Leone Crescenzi, CEO of Palco begins: “Accessibility and an element of familiarity is key to introducing the wider public to watching eSports matches, and then connecting with pro players, as they do with big sports athletes. The more entertainment is able to expose audiences to the wider world of eSports, the greater engagement with the eSports themselves will be.”
“The world has changed drastically and the growth of eSports, and those who build their own lives around it will lead the charge to mainstream adoption,” comments Christian Konczal, Director of Esports at Champlain College. “I advocate for every effort that promotes proper conveyance, either through actual game design or broadcasting/commentating.”
But as our sources reiterate, acceptance of eSports must first begin with the industry’s most influential, as Garett Bambrough, GM of the Pittsburgh Knights explains: “Acceptance from major figures in mainstream media would help change the perceived view of what eSports is. It won’t happen overnight, too many people of the older generations see it as a waste of time and have no understanding of what eSports actually is.
“There have been major athletes and celebrities who have argued on behalf of eSports which has significantly helped but still is not close to changing the stigma around eSports. What makes people change their minds on eSports is when it touches their lives. The vast majority of eSports professionals have similar stories, including myself.
“Stories that showcase how parents and family members thought it was a waste of time, but after being around eSports and experiencing how it can provide careers and change lives, and how electric and suspenseful the live events are, their perception always changes and those same family members become eSports’ biggest supporters.”
Josh Hafkin, CEO of Game Gym added to these thoughts with: “Mainstream adoption will increase based on two factors: parental acceptance for gamers in grades K-12, and growth of a fan base for college and pro teams.
“Most parents are still sceptical about the value of eSports, but as that changes over time, that will fuel the wider acceptance of eSports as a valid hobby. Most viewers of eSports competitions are gamers themselves, but as the fan base expands to encompass non-gamers (the way non-athletes watch college and pro football and basketball, for example), that will also contribute to mainstream adoption.”
Bradley Beal, Event Manager at BADASS Studios and founder of BADASS University All Stars, has bigger ambitions for eSports, and believes that change needs to start from the top: “Honestly, recognition from national sources. Take a look at how Korea and Japan utilise the space, they have publicly recognised the sport as what it is, a competitive sport.
“Korea has dedicated tv channels for the sport for various games and is recognised at a government level alongside Japan. I think the western part of the world needs to get out of the ‘it’s just a video game’ or recognising athletes as ‘Video Game Players/Gamers’ as seen on BBC and start recognising them as eSports athletes or professionals in their field.
“If mainstream media in countries is still stuck in that mindset nothing will change. Everything is about recognition and a unified front, the more you stray away from connecting it to a casual ‘gamer/gaming’ aspect, the more the scene can grow and be recognised by more people as a legitimate sport.”
Kairo, a male caster and player for BADASS University All Stars, agrees with Beal’s viewpoint and recognises the importance of state-funded initiatives to the progression of mainstream eSports adoption. They comment: “I think a great example is how Korea has implemented state-funded sponsorship for players to educate while being trained by some of the best in the world to be an eSports athlete.
“Another great example of how mainstream eSports is in Asia is the national broadcasts of the eSport. Korea especially has really embodied eSports within their nation and is probably the greatest example of it.
“Another example of success is in America we are now starting to see the development of eSports scholarships. Schools are really getting behind the benefits of eSports in growing their brand and also creating an attraction to new students that may have a massive passion for eSports.
“I think education, national broadcasts and again investment will really help with mainstream adoption.”
Aside from the need for external factors to change, there are equal calls for the growing culture around eSports to come into its own; especially in regards to the impact it generates on a user’s online identity.
Innovators, developers and investors must all hold a genuine interest in what they’re trying to accomplish, and the end product must resonate with the true interests of the participant, as Aseef Khan, VP Gaming and eSports of Swarmio Media explains: “A key element to mainstream eSports adoption involves understanding the culture and impact that gaming has on an individual’s identity. For most gamers, this lifestyle means more than just playing games.
“To achieve success in this space, brands, companies, and investors must form a genuine appreciation for the sport and help to embrace this unique hobby across multiple channels and mediums.
“It’s only with this understanding that businesses can leverage eSports and gaming as a revenue generator. The innovations created in this space must authentically connect with a true eSports and gaming enthusiast.
“Brands are now tasked with finding unique ways to tap into this online culture to help generate additional revenue. For example, popular Netflix shows such as Arcane and Dragon’s Blood include smart product placement opportunities that would have been overlooked by many traditional advertising standards.
“The good news is that these brands don’t have to do this hard work alone. Today there are gaming ecosystem partners, such as Swarmio, that help business leaders from all backgrounds break into the eSports space through careful research and guidance.”