What does the future hold for esports?

Growth | International | Reports | Sport | Technology

Written by Darren Cox, CEO of Millennial Esports

Who am I and who are Millennial Esports?

I’m a motor industry innovator of over 20 years. I’ve had a great apprenticeship across finance, franchising, sponsorship and sales – from delivering motorshows to a brand-new digital platform for 26 European countries in 18 months. I delivered the Juke launch in Europe and record sales for Qashqai before taking on a project to set up a brand function for Nissan Europe. During that successful period I’m most proud of the innovative marketing approach that is GT Academy, a Gaming / AFP / Sponsorship / Event / PR hybrid that has delivered 10:1 ROI all over the world.

I’m equally proud of World’s Fastest Gamer (WFG), the world’s biggest ever esports racing tournament. WFG season one was shown on ESPN, CNBC and 91 other broadcasters with a four-part two-hour series and we recently launched season two with an instant 30% increase in social media followers and an engagement rate three times that of the industry average. We are about to take our finalists to California to compete for the biggest-ever prize in esports racing. ‘We’ are Millennial Esports.

At Millennial Esports we’re concentrating on professionalising esports racing, bringing together experts from virtual racing and combining that with real-world racing knowledge like Formula 1 race winners Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya, who are investors in Millennial Esports and advisors to our company.

Our data experts Stream Hatchet are renowned as the “Nielsen of esports streaming” for the entire industry. The team analyse data for all major esports streams and provide deep insight into what those numbers mean to provide brands, esports events and promoters with important data they can base their future esports business investment on.

The beginning and rise of esports as a business

With teams, leagues and players from the world of sport investing heavily in esports, from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, to West Ham United and the Philadelphia 76ers, virtual/reality collaborations are a fast-growing trend. Esport is now one of the biggest sports in the world, with revenues now overtaking those of Hollywood. Global gaming is worth more than $100 billion, with year-on-year growth of almost 10% and the esports global audience has already reached more than 300m.

As viewership of sport is adjusting to new digital trends and leading brands start to invest heavily in gaming instead of traditional sports sponsorship, the message for the sports industry is apparent – virtual sport offers a compelling way forward.

Other sports linked to esports, such as basketball and football, are progressing very, very fast indeed. Motorsport historically has been quite conservative – ‘do what you did last year and do it slightly better’. Before WFG, esports motor racing didn’t exist. Now it’s front and centre.

What place has esports compared to traditional sports and how is that evolving?

We’re seeing more and more race fans come to the sport from gaming. As is the case with Major League Soccer in the US – the growth of the sport has been driven significantly by young fans coming to the sport from the FIFA gaming franchise.

When I grew up my dad took me to races. Kids these days aren’t going to motor racing circuits. What they ARE doing is sitting in their bedrooms at home playing on Gear.Club, Forza, Gran Turismo or Project CARS. They’re not just interacting with the championships out there – they’re having their own championships online. So why not take the passion and dedication they’ve got for the games and turn it into something else?

Will they challenge traditional sports for sponsorship and TV deals in the future?

Brands are looking for opportunities to engage with young audiences – not just talk to those audiences but engage in a conversation. 30 years ago it was about doing TV advertising, but audiences are not being entertained and informed the same way my generation were. The growth of esports has exploded with games like Fortnite, League of Legends and DOTA and brands are looking at using these events, these streams, these teams and these players, to engage with an audience that is growing massively.

The interesting progression at the moment is that some of the streaming sites such as Twitch are starting to stream traditional sports, and mainstream networks are showing esports tournaments. The end result is that esports is being exposed to more and more people.

The big brands are starting to come to esports and I think that is going to be a growing trend. A recent report showed that esports streaming has grown more than 41%, with viewers watching 746m more hours of esports than the previous year. That number is going to continue to grow.

What’s the impact of global tournaments and prize money, particularly on the major business brands sponsoring them?

We’ve undoubtedly seen the prize money on offer in major esports tournaments beginning to rise massively – you can now win more money in esports events than you would if you won Wimbledon or the Masters Golf in USA. The massive prize money in the Fortnite World Cup or The International (DOTA) is also creating mainstream media headlines, further expanding the viewer base.

Major brands are jumping on board because they see the opportunity to to talk to young consumers who aren’t watching golf of tennis on television. Obtaining brand loyalty from young customers is obviously a great long-term investment – tennis and golf tend to attract a lot of luxury brands, whereas esports tends to be more mainstream brands.

It again relates to how these young consumers are obtaining their content. They’re not watching TV or reading magazines, so if you are a brand and want to reach this generation esports is the ideal opportunity. The more money that comes into the sport, the more prize money will be available. It becomes a virtuous circle: the biggest the prize money, the more competitors; the more competitors, the more attractive it is for advertisers; the more advertisers involved, the bigger the prize money.

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