The esports craze has picked up in a big way over the past year, and that’s reflected in the events taking place at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the big game trade show in Los Angeles next week. E3 generates billions of media impressions, and the esports companies want a lot of that attention.
Global esports revenues will grow 38 percent to $906 million in 2018 and further grow to $1.65 billion by 2021, according to a new annual report on esports by market researcher Newzoo. Some think esports is gaming’s latest fad, replacing virtual reality and set to burn out when the next bubble comes along.
But advocates say there are a lot of powerful people and companies that are making sure that the esports ecosystem comes together and takes a stab at replacing traditional sports. A big part of the revenue for esports will be associated with media broadcasts and advertising, and growing the audience at events such as E3 will play a big role in gathering more momentum for esports and more media revenues as a result. (Meanwhile, a lot of people are starting to find careers in esports).
Newzoo estimates esports enthusiast fans will grow 15.2 percent from 143 million in 2017 to 165 million in 2018, while the number of occasional viewers will grow from 192 million in 2017 to 215 million in 2018. By 2021, the esports enthusiasts will reach 250 million and the occasional viewers will reach 307 million. That represents growth from a total of 335 million in 2017 to 557 million in 2021.
Electronic Arts won’t have actual esports competitions at its EA Play event in Hollywood ahead of E3, but it will broadcast more than 100 hours of gameplay live and show a one-hour live FIFA World Cup stream with competitive play.
“We will be talking about the fact there were 20 million players competing in the esports season for FIFA, and esports and live play will be a main highlight of what we are talking about on the stage,” said Chris Bruzzo, the chief marketing officer at EA, in an interview with GamesBeat.
That’s all part of getting players — 40,000 of them are expected to go through EA Play alone — excited about announcements at E3 and engaging with them on a year-round basis, Bruzzo said.
Esports got its biggest boost recently when Epic Games said it would hold a year-long Fortnite tournament with a prize pool of $100 million. That’s a reflection of how much money the free-to-play battle royale game is raking in.
At E3, Epic Games will host its first Fortnite Celebrity Pro Am tournament with 50 pro players and 50 celebrities, paired up in duos. The players include Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Markiplier, Ali ‘Myth’ Kabbani, Joel McHale, Xavier Woods, and Tyron Woodley. It takes place at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Fortnite booth in the South Hall. Duos will compete for a $1 million charity prize.
The ESA partnered with ESL to host an esports competition at the E3 ESL Arena. It runs Tuesday-Thursday. The arena in the South Hall can seat more than 200 employees and will feature “custom player experiences.” One of the games being played is Tencent’s Arena of Valor, and that’s a big deal is Tencent is the world’s biggest game company and this is the first time it is making a splash at E3.
Nintendo will also feature competitive tournaments Monday and Tuesday for the Switch. It will host the first Splatoon 2 World Championship on the Switch. It takes place at 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, and finals are set for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Belasco theater.
And it will host the Super Smash Bros. Invitational at the Belasco theater at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The action will be livestreamed.
Shacknews is also holding its Shacknews World Championship at the Shacknews booth in the West Hall. Sign-ups are Tuesday, and the competition runs on Wednesday and Thursday. The event will also be streamed on the Shacknews Twitch channel. The prize pool is $50,000.
What a difference a year makes.