Esports: Even better than the real thing?!

Esports: Even better than the real thing?!

A recent report by US company Kleiner Perkins - venture capitalists who have stakes in various gaming companies - has shown that the growth in popularity of esports has the potential to overtake the public’s love of real-life sports.

Kleiner Perkins’ findings refer mostly to millennial gamers, typically aged 18-34. These gamers seem quite torn on whether they prefer playing and watching games on a digital screen or an actual field: 27% of millennial respondents said they preferred esports; another 27% prefer ‘traditional’ sports.

Given that this group of gamers is made up of young people, we can only imagine that the next generation will see esports even more ingrained in the scope of leisure pursuits and hobbies. Perhaps in anticipation of this shift, US universities have created esport tuition courses. There’s even one here in the UK: Staffordshire university is currently advertising a degree in esports, which they say covers the “business of playing games professionally”. Course content covers game design, but also the culture of esports, as well as a focus on the live events side of things.

Back to the Kleiner Perkins survey…if the respondent wasn’t a millennial, traditional sports appeared to be their first choice, perhaps because this is what they know best. Esports is relatively new as an industry, and it’s easy to see why it appeals to younger gamers, who have experienced it in equal measure to real-life sports. Traditional sports have always proved popular because of fans’ social interaction, and the fact they appeal to all age groups and families, etc. But given the live events that surround esports, where gamers can get their ‘social fix’, and that, as millennials age, there may become a point where esports cross all age groups, could they really become a true rival to traditional sports?

According to reports, this may already be the case in the US. Apparently, more Americans play League of Legends than actual real-life baseball; LoL is also watched more than the NBA Finals, World Series or BCS national championship game.

In a country where gaming is a huge market, this is perhaps interesting but not surprising. Could esports take over from real-life sports across the world? Given that only 40% of the world’s population have internet connection and a computer – vital components to compete/watch esports – this is unlikely in the near future. If access wasn’t an issue, it’s conceivable that many would rather play sports in the comfort of our home, than pound a pitch or court for more than two hours. The easiest option tends to be the most attractive to us.

Though the media would have us believe there’s equal interest in esports and traditional sports, some industry experts discount this. They say that media sources interpret figures incorrectly, as well as misunderstand esport metrics. For example, the statistics relating to traditional sports viewers feature averages, not actual figures. “And esports data is all over the place,” according to one expert, who believes it’s unfair and inaccurate to compare both sets of stats against each other, like for like.

What’s clear is that the popularity of esports is solid, and growing. Goldman Sachs valued the industry last year at $500mn, and they forecast 22% compound growth year on year. Now, that’s definitely something worth watching!



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