Video gaming is one of the more fluid and adaptable industries out there, at least as far as its uptake of new technologies is concerned. VR and AR were the beaus of gamers for a period of time that feels like seconds in hindsight, though it’s arguable whether either technology has reached the apex of its development – or ever will. In some form or another, VR has now been around for decades, after all.
But what of the future? Gaming has become much more fragmented and commercial over the past decade but the growing indie scene and social media’s enabling of individual voices have kept the conglomerates grounded. Episodic gaming, free-to-play models, and cloud-based experiences are still very much in their infancy at present but it’s eSports that’s likely to cause a sea change in how we experience the next generation of games.
Oddly enough, the games don’t even matter. eSports is already one of the largest advertising machines on earth, with overall revenues of $1.5bn from a projected audience of 650m by 2023. That’s just $0.5bn behind the Premier League. However, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that many of the people who watch soccer are unlikely to say the same about eSports, which has an audience that skews young.
There’s now no excuse for any company targeting young people to stay out of eSports. The presence of Coca-Cola and the Premier League within the space is a testament to how effective competitive video gaming is at driving growth across disparate industries. The Premier League is running FIFA tournaments as though they were real soccer events, complete with major teams and prize money.
From the perspective of a sports league, eSports provides the perfect accessory. It’s just a question of how much audience is gained or maintained by leveraging the appeal of a different entertainment niche altogether.
PR Newswire indicates that eSports has also become dominant in the sports betting niche. Between 2022 and 2025, the size of the betting segment in competitive video gaming could grow by up to 13%, to $13bn. Inevitably, major betting companies such as bet365 have turned their collective hands to eSports while still maintaining a presence in more established areas such as football betting.
Overall, the (regular) sports betting industry is worth between $85-$100m, which indicates that interest in football betting may be harder for eSports to top than simple viewership. Betting on sports is also much more evolved than its video game counterpart, with bet365 offering football betting on markets and events all over the world. eSports wagering is still very much about the big occasion.
Ultimately, eSports provides a route into the lives of millennials and zoomers. The industry will age as its primary demographic does, which means that its popularity across age groups is likely to even out over the next few decades. So, while the Premier League continues to fight against an aging audience, and as competitive, skill-based experiences grow in value, eSports is likely to draw ever closer to the mainstream.