Now is the time that companies start seriously looking at how eSports play into their long-term strategy, says Morris Garrard, an information analyst who specializes in gaming at Futuresource Consulting.
Short-term, there’s been an obvious spike in video game streaming, with streaming leader Twitch seeing a 10% year-over-year increase in audiences numbers. It’s not an unsurprising spike, as hundreds of millions of families are now isolated at home in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Video gaming is up 75% in the US, and all video streaming is up 12% amid the pandemic, according to Verizon. Idle consumers are looking for new ways to view content outside of linear TV, says Garrard. Viewership on streaming sites, including YouTube Gaming and Microsoft Mixer, are expected to rise, Garrard says.
In Garrard’s view, there are some obvious short-term opportunities for eSports. Broadcasters looking to reach those eyeballs, could air eSports, and the streams from popular gamers on their linear channels, says Garrard. This could provide a stop-gap to help address delayed deliveries of the paused productions.
What’s more, all production companies can begin producing eSport content, or they can tap into the audience by airing their existing content on popular platforms such as Twitch, which is what California-based prodco Genius Brands did when it launched an Inspector Gadget marathon on the streamer in 2018. Meanwhile, toycos can benefit from advertising before videos and streams, and teaming up with influencers (like what Wicked Cool Toys did producing a range of products based on popular gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins) in the space could net companies increased exposure from the large number of viewers. Speed here is of the essence as those viewership increases on Twitch probably won’t be permanent, says Garrard. After the pandemic abates and routines begin to return to normal, there will be a decline in eSports viewing.
Though COVID-19 is leading to a short-term spike, the eSports category was already on the upswing. Globally it’s forecasted to reach US$1.79 billion in 2022 in revenue, according to market researcher Statista. The viewership numbers for the category are also expected to grow 13% by 2023, says Garrard. Over the past few years, eSports has been growing steadily, with big players like Hasbro and Nickelodeon making significant investments in the category. It’s a lucrative market that’s expected to hold steady, and companies that enter the space now could get a piece of an industry that was estimated at US$923 million in 2019, according to the market research firm.
“Some entertainment studios are scared of eSports since they don’t know how to get into the space, but kids see it as a viable source of entertainment,” says Garrard. “Companies should get into the space now because the audience is growing, and families could stick with it as a form of entertainment after the crisis ends.”