WE Communications Blog: PLUS
Two opponents, preparing for an epic contest on the field. Only one would leave victorious. It’s the classic sports story. But what if all that happened on the screen? In a video game. Live to sold-out arenas and broadcast across the internet. Where highly tuned reflexes and fast-twitch muscles are localized from thumb to button and eye to screen. Welcome to eSports.
Technology isn’t just transforming every industry, it’s breathing new life into categories we overlook in the mainstream. Esports isn’t a new category by any means. Gaming tournaments having been around since the 80’s — where fans could watch their favorite gamers battle it out in digital worlds. The movie, The Wizard, aside from being a not-so-subtle marketing ploy to sell the incredibly frustrating Nintendo Power Glove, is a well-produced gem of what it looked like in the early days of eSports. Today, eSports is serious business, highly sophisticated and poised to become a billion dollar industry by 2020. Another thing for which we can thank Fred Savage.
According to research by our partner YouGov, 65 percent of adults in the U.K. are unaware of eSports. But dig further, if you are 18 to 24 in the U.K., there is a 64 percent chance you know about eSports. And 34 percent have watched some form of eSports. In China, those numbers are even higher. At a billion dollars in revenue, eSports will be on par with smaller sports leagues such as Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan and Ligue 1 Conforama in France and Monaco.
But it’s not total growth of eSports’ value that is interesting. It’s the evolution of how consumers watch, engage with and connect with their friends during eSports matches. With platforms like Twitch, a destination where gamers can post videos, watch live game play and interact with their friends is changing the expectations spectators have on taking in a game. The NBA is taking note. Commissioner Adam Silver thinks that sports need to look more like video games. As the media ecosystem has shifted putting choice and power in the hands of consumers, ratings have dipped, ad sales fallen and the old models are being strained.
As new viewing models are tested onscreen across devices — streaming stats, live updates from the sidelines, data-enabled trend analysis, it’s no doubt that the way the normal consumer watches sports will change. We’re entering the age of the connected spectators. Their expectation: data presented to them in instantaneous real time and complex associations made across statistics. And for marketers, the use of real-time data, the ability to connect with an engaged community and the opportunity to create curated discussions means that we should be watching with interest not just for our nerdy selves but for clients. So pick up a video game or check some feeds on Twitch. It might just spark your imagination. But guaranteed you’ll see the video game user experience edge its way into traditional sports viewing.
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