March 21, 2019Published by: Samantha Sy

Joining the game: why brands and celebs are targeting esports

One of the biggest boom sectors globally in recent years is esports (electronic sports), which is predicted to become a billion-dollar industry in 2019. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, when you consider the video games industry is the richest entertainment form in the world, worth more than $116bn in 2018 according to a Reuters report.

Online user experience is a key reason behind this demand, as there is a great sense of community in playing and watching multiplayer games like League of Legends or Fortnite online. Being able to login from anywhere, and connect with friends and people across the globe is a fun, empowering and exhilarating experience.

Esports attracts professional players, dedicated amateurs, and huge viewing figures from fans on social platforms like Twitch and YouTube. Most importantly, it has caught the eye of investors and business leaders, who have transformed video gaming into a highly professional and well-structured competitive esports scene.

Organisational bodies run tournaments and leagues around the world, with teams and players competing against one another for multimillion-dollar prizes. Gaming is suddenly big business – it’s been elevated to the level of major sporting events, with esports screened in an online arena where gaming professionals take to the stage with millions of people watching online.


Brand integration

Companies and celebrities are beginning to target the gaming industry, integrating both games and esports within business and marketing strategies. Louis Vuitton, for example, was one of the first trailblazers, using a character from Final Fantasy to model its SS16 collection back in 2015. Today’s groundbreaker, however, is electronic dance music producer Marshmello, who recently launched a live, 10-minute, in-game concert within Fortnite – one of the most popular games of the past year or so. Users could dance and interact using in-game emotes, and jump on stage right in front of Marshmello's avatar, almost akin to an actual concert but 1337 style.

The rise of the gaming industry is opening up many unique opportunities for brands to get involved and tap into this growing economy. New research from Newzoo, global provider of games and esports analytics, estimates that esports revenues will reach $1.1 billion in 2019 (YoY growth of 26.7%) and sponsorship will generate $456.7 million (YoY growth of 34.3%). There is also a lot of freedom for cross-industry creativity with sponsorships and collaborations becoming increasingly common.

Nike and PlayStation, for example, used the original colourings of PlayStation’s first console and its iconic symbols (∆ x o □) to develop custom-made shoes named Nike PG 2.5 x PlayStation. Similarly, fighting game Tekken 7 released additional downloadable content to its roster that included a character from TV show The Walking Dead. Meanwhile, long-running animated comedy The Simpsons even covered esports in its recent episode with Homer as Bart’s coach.

Clearly the gaming industry is becoming a lot more attractive as it intersects the entertainment worlds of music, TV, fashion, and games, and is bringing people with similar interests together to bolster the reach for the companies in collaboration.


Growing audience

It's not only the gaming revenues that are soaring though – the global esports’ audience is growing rapidly too. The total audience of occasional viewers and esports enthusiasts in 2017 was 355 million, according to Newzoo. In 2018 it rose to 395 million people, with year-on-year growth of 17.8%, but in 2019 is predicted to reach an audience of 454 million. Newzoo estimates that 57% of esports enthusiasts will come from Asia-Pacific region, with just 16% from the EU. This represents a huge opportunity for esports to grow its player base and audience in the EU, just like it already has done within APAC.

There’s no doubt that the esports community will continue to thrive and the gaming industry will keep on growing. With recent developments in cloud gaming (e.g. PlayStation Now, Xbox’s Project xCloud, and Nvidia’s GeForce Now), VR, and Google having just announced its own in-browser streaming games service to compete with PlayStation and Xbox, there’s even more room for esports and games to evolve. Even Snapchat is getting in on the act, having recently announced it will be launching a new gaming platform as early as next month.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s next for the industry: will Hollywood stars tap into the cinematic aspects of games? Are gamers primed to become some of the world’s biggest influencers? Will we see a Nike-sponsored video games star? How far will cross-industry products go?

We’ll keep a close eye on developments in coming months and see if it becomes a challenger to traditional social media platforms.

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