The development of eSports, where professional gamers play top video games in competition with other gamers, has hit the mainstream at light speed. With revenues expected to be at over $450 million by the end of 2016 and over $1 billion by 2019, eSports viewership already surpasses the NBA finals and the MLB World Series and looks to surpass the Super Bowl by 2020.
ESports + Mobile Device= ?
Nielsen reports that over 10% of the general population are already aware of eSports due to increased coverage and popularity on social media. They also report that these fans have a higher than average income (approximately $69,000) making eSports very attractive to advertisers and marketers.
Pew Research Center reports that 68% of Americans have a smartphone and 45% have a computer tablet. They also state that 87% of those owners live in households with an income of $75,000 or greater. Finally, Statista reported that 55.7% of the population that has a smartphone or mobile device plays games on them. But what does all this mean?
Debating the Move to Mobile
For many industry experts, the future of eSports is mobile. In 2016, the forecasted $36.87 billion market of mobile gaming is expected to surpass the $30.78 billion console and $31.92 billion PC game market. So while eSports competitions have been emphasizing PC and console games like Call of Duty and League of Legends, the same companies that created some of the biggest competitive games in eSports are racing to deliver mobile games equal to the challenge of eSports enthusiasts.
League of Legends creator, Riot Games, is releasing a companion mobile app called League Friends. The app allows you to communicate with friends and team members when you are not on the PC. No doubt the League of Legends mobile app is in development.
Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft, Starcraft II, Diablo) exec, Frank Pearce, stated, “ Bringing Blizzard’s deep heritage in real-time strategy to that (mobile) platform will be an exciting development.” Player space and time will have to be reconsidered, as no one wants to sit down to a 45-minute mobile game, but it is not far off. They already have Hearthstone released for iPad; it remains in the top 40 grossers of iOS sales and has had tournaments since 2013 with prizes of over $100,000 – and sometimes considerably more.
Then Came Twitch
When Twitch launched officially in June of 2011, it was considered a simple spinoff of Justin.tv, one of the first live online streaming sites. Founder Justin Kan knew that “streaming video games was going to be really technically complex,” so the first hire of Justin.tv was a specialist video game streamer.
Five years later, Twitch falls right behind Netflix, Apple and Google for peak Internet traffic. Yes, it is THAT popular. Twitch hosts everything from live streaming tournaments to individual player streams. They cover every eSport from team video game competitions to online poker championships. Many players and events owe their own popularity and sponsorship to Twitch. ElkY, a former Starcraft: Brood War and Warcraft III eSports player has always streamed his games on Twitch. He now plays professional poker and has won a triple crown (WPT. WSOP and EPT). He returns to esports on Twitch with Team Liquid playing Hearthstone.
Many of the Spring Championship of Online Poker winners streamed their online games live on Twitch, helping to make SCOOP a major success. Jaime Staples played every SCOOP event in 2014 and 2015 live on Twitch. George Danzer streamed his poker matches on Twitch, and he also streams his Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft for Team Liquid on Twitch. League of Legends champion Soren Bjerg streams live on Twitch and viewers pay to watch it. DotA 2 champion Danil Ishutin plays on Twitch. It seems everyone who is anyone in the gaming world plays on Twitch.
The Road to Recognition
But how exactly did viewers popularize video game competitions? Where are they now and where is this trend going? While video game competitions have been around since the early ‘70s, it was the ‘90s that brought games and competitions online. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that video gaming competitions became global as far as competitors were concerned, but the competitions were primarily Asian, with the founding of the Korean e-Sports Association in 2000. Still, not much noise was made.
The next ten years saw impressive growth in the number of tournaments. What began as 10 tournaments in 2000 grew to over 260 by 2010, including the early successes of World Cyber Games, Intel Extreme Masters and Major League Gaming. At that point, eSports televised coverage was sporadic. The U.S., UK and Europe televised select tournaments such as Madden NFL on ESPN, and South Korea created a dedicated channel for eSports. It didn’t seem to catch on. But it was certainly ahead of its time.
Majors Join the Mobile Platform
Twitch launched their mobile app in 2013 for the live streaming viewer and later in 2014 started introducing Twitch Broadcasting in certain games. HearthStone: Heroes of Warcraft released their mobile app in March 2014. PokerStars released their first mobile app for online poker in 2012, and has since launched many different mobile apps, including the recent Duel. Call of Duty launched their first mobile app in 2013. Madden NFL launched in August 2014. The eSports industry is falling in line with the mobile platform. Why?
Adapt or fall to the wayside. The up and coming generation of gamers is the “Touch Screen Generation.” The mobile platform expands the availability of competition to anyone with a phone. It will still take some time as the hardware capabilities of mobile devices has to be able to handle the real time technologies of the big games out there.
Esport enthusiasts are ready. A recent report from Newzoo states that eSports enthusiasts download mobile games more frequently than casual gamers; 42% of esports enthusiasts download a mobile gaming app at least once a week. People want to play. People want to watch people playing, and people want to do both wherever and whenever they want. Thus, eSports must go mobile.
With the demands and development of technology moving so fast, what could possibly come next? ESports go to the Olympics? Oh yes, you’d better believe it!