E-sports is big business and the next milestone is mobile
With a viewership in the millions, E-Sports could someday compete with the Superbowl
Think E-Sports and the image that crops up in our minds is one of the thousands of PC gamers huddled together and kicking virtual ass while looking keenly into their brightly lit monitors. PC Games such as Warcraft and League of Legends have their own cult followings with tournaments that have prize pools of millions of dollars. The 2015 edition of the MOBA tournament DOTA had over $ 11 million up for grabs, this is more than the prize pot of many conventional sporting tournaments such as the Cricket World Cup that weighs in at 10.2 million and the Golf Masters at $10 million.
Live streaming of such gaming tournaments is also big business, LOL (League of Legends) boasted close to 36 million viewers for the finals of their 2014 tournament. This means that E-sports tournaments can soon rake in the advertising moolah as they are mostly played and viewed by the young (Under 35) demographic. These followings rival conventional sporting tournaments such as the Superbowl, the NBA, and the UEFA champions league.
The leader in PC E-sports LOL has over 67 million active players, however, mobile gaming is yet to see a big winner in the space. Clash Royale, Vainglory, and Hearthstone have met with moderate success but nothing rivalling their PC counterparts. Given the extent of smartphone penetration and the lower barriers to getting started, a successful mobile IP for the e-sports market has the potential to be huge. The era of E-sports on mobile is yet to take off but looks extremely promising.
Taking a leaf from the PC gaming playbook, the reason games such as WOW and LOL have become so successful and have such a fervent following is the level of strategy and expertise required to master such games. The game that can create a similarly stimulating and competitive experience on mobile will be the big winner in the space. Mobile is however yet to see a title that can bring such a high level of global strategy and create such a powerful community.
Augmented Reality could help to turn the tables in favour of mobile E-sports, games such as Ingress and Delta T who appeal to serious gamers or even superstar IP-based AR games such as Pokemon Go could get players equally excited and invested. AR based gameplay also makes for interesting viewing as the players would have to physically move around to get playing. This could bridge the gap between conventional physical sports and e-sports to spawn a sort of hybrid. Eventually, these games could have their own ‘Amazing racesque’ TV presence that follows mobile gamers on their adventures. This could appeal to an even larger demographic than PC gaming as the community is more inclusive. It remains to be seen which mobile game cracks the elusive space but it is fair to say that the spoils will be tremendous.