Cyberspace Athletes: Beyond Gamers
In the arena, the crowd sits with bated breath as they watch two teams duke it out, finally erupting with a loud roar when the score is settled and the winning team emerges, exhausted from their efforts. Sounds like any other sporting event doesn’t it? Well, this time, the sport in concern wasn’t played on a physical field, but rather in the virtual world.
The first instalment of esports as a medal sport in the South East Asian games just concluded last month, and it saw Southeast Asian gamers take each on in games like Mobile Legends, Starcraft II, Hearthstone, Arena of Valor, Dota 2 and Tekken 7. That’s esports being played on an international stage as part of an international sporting tournament, and it just shows how far esports has come.
Given that global esports revenues have just about doubled about every two years, esports analytics experts Newzoo estimate the global games market to be worth more than uS$1.8 billion by 2022. It’s safe to say this is and will be serious business in the years to come.
But, it’s not all about the games and the gamers. David Tse (Global Esports Director, razer) says that esports is really an ecosystem of publishing partners, professional teams, athletes, casters, and tournament organizers, and each element will evolve over time. He believes that tournament organisers will continue to enhance their production value in offline tournaments, and so ensure higher viewer participation through online platforms.
At the same time, he thinks professional teams will build their teams to go beyond just tournament performance – they will invest in content creation and marketing around their teams, developing the team into a brand that can scale and reach out to broader audience.
That’s something we certainly agree with, but we’d go on to say esports will have an impact on property too. Already in America, property developers are turning their eyes towards building or converting existing facilities for use with esports. These are attractive because they can also readily be repurposed to host other activities in the off-season, like concerts or other sporting events.
Literally Creating Their Own Space
As esports competitions get more international in nature, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the rise of dedicated national esports arenas too, each the home base for the nation’s team. You could then get the equivalent of “home” and “away” games on a larger scale.
That’s already happening on a city-level with Blizzard’s Overwatch League and Activision’s call of Duty League, where teams will host a series of matches in their respective cities. Also, League of Legends has been running their own World championship tournament for teams across the world to duke it out in front of a global audience for a few years now. So, it shouldn’t be too much of a leap to see an international organization holding dedicated county-level competitions for esports in the future.
Dedicated facilities for training also gives opportunities for sponsors to come in, a major revenue stream for any professional sport. In Hangzhou, china has taken this one step further and created an “esports town”.
That’s a uS$2.2 billion investment in 14 projects that include a 10,000-seat esports arena, a business centre for esports vendors, an esports academy, an esports themed hotel, and a dedicated health centre for esports related injuries. That may seem like a major investment for gaming, but it’s something we can definitely see happening in more countries around the world.
Esports academies that teach strategy and technique are likely to become more commonplace too, as will the practice of giving out scholarships to woo quality esports players. Given how our reflexes will invariably decline with age, these academies would provide avenues for retiring players to pass on their knowledge and groom new talent. That would see competition for positions in these academies, much like there is for the top education institutes in the world.
The maturation of technologies like 5G should also see wider audience appeal as it becomes easier to tune in to tournaments and interact with teams. This should also mean richer content to go along with tournaments and also a chance for direct interaction in ways that are impossible with traditional sports. Of course, that would mean more opportunities for monetisation, bringing needed funding to keep the ecosystem.
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