How Esports Compares to Other Entertainment Industries

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Entertainment has always been a central part of human life. From as early as the 260 BC when people gathered to watch Chinese magic mirror shows to the fan-filled sport stadiums of today, civilization has always found a way to entertain itself. Of course, the way we do this evolves with time and technology. People used to read parchment and today they listen to audiobooks – it is the same form of entertainment but executed differently. Our tastes also change with time. Today, video games generate more revenue than films. This ever-evolving nature of entertainment is how esports came to be. Gaming fans and gamers turned a niche pastime into a competitive market worth billions of dollars. Below, we review the impact of esports and how it compares to other popular forms of entertainment.

The Esports Market

According to Insider Intelligence, over 29.8 million people watched esports content in the United States in 2022. This number is expected to hit $34.8 million by 2026. Experts and industry pundits credit the pop-culturization of the industry on this popularity. Esports has fast become a mainstream form of entertainment and, while it is not quite there yet, investors are taking notice.

Private equity firms especially seem very interested in the fast-growing esports market. In 2018, esports enjoyed 68 investments, up from 34 the previous year. These investments amounted to over $4.5 billion, up again significantly from the previous year which saw $490 million in investments.

Esports and Gaming

NEA partner Rick Yang, an esports investor, maintains that the gaming sector and esports have the strongest links within the entertainment industry. As Yang puts it, esports is “…the mainstreaming of gaming.” Esports is first and foremost gamers playing popular video games like Dota 2 and League of Legends against each other. The sector then adds aspects of commerce, pop culture, media, and streaming to the mix to become esports as we know it today.

Esports is built on the already-established gamer fan base. Like gaming, it is fueled by competition. Consider all the professional and amateur poker players who gather every year to compete against each other. Within this sector, all winners including the best poker players who haven’t won a WSOP bracelet have something to prove. They sharpen their strategy and go back to the table to test out their skills against other poker players. This competitive take on gaming is what draws in an audience of people who are not traditionally drawn to gaming, including bettors and adrenaline junkies. Ultimately, competition links the two markets. Gaming drives esports and esports betting and esports exposes gaming to a wider, more mainstream audience.

Esports Vs. Traditional Sports

Traditional sports remain one of the most popular sectors of the entertainment industries. Sporting events like the FIFA World Cup continue to draw millions of viewers, both through broadcast and in stadiums. However, the restrictions imposed on physical games during the social-distancing era set the stage for a possible takeover by esports and esports betting.

In the absence of live games, fans of competition found they could get as much entertainment from watching people play competitive video games. Esports thrived while traditional sports took a hit. In 2020, FC Barcelona, the world’s richest football club, made 203 million euros less than expected. While their revenue was still leaps and bounds beyond what the esports industry made as a whole, the loss was huge. It was greater than the growth margin for the esports market.

Esports also enjoys a wider following among younger viewers who are the paying audience of tomorrow. In this regard, esports could grow to the level of some sporting events in the future. When and how this happens, however, is difficult to project as traditional sports are a massive market.

Esports Vs. TV: The Case of Immersive Entertainment

Esports may also draw in some TV viewers for the mere fact that it is more immersive. In the past decade, TV has tried to remain within the mainstream market by entering the social media scene. Most TV stations have dedicated social media platforms through which they can engage with their viewers. This engagement is important because consumers who feel involved are more likely to stay loyal.

However, in this regard, esports is more immersive than TV could ever hope to be. Esports competitions, tournaments, and content are shared through live streams. Viewers can engage with the players and other fans in real time, commenting on the events as they fold. And with the highly anticipated Metaverse becoming more and more of a reality by the day, audiences could even be able to attend esports tournaments from anywhere in the world.

Esports and Social Media

Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube remain the most dominating social media platforms. However, esports audiences are not so far behind. Twitch and YouTube esports viewers average 100 minutes of viewing for every active session. Of all the viewers, only 50 percent are actual gamers. This points to a fascination with game streaming content that could push Twitch to Instagram status.

Wrapping Up: Esports Will Continue to Grow

Video games were once a niche hobby, preserved for a select group of gamers who had elaborate gaming equipment and years of experience. But over the last few years, video gaming has left the basement and entered mainstream culture in unprecedented ways. Anyone with a smartphone and stable internet connection can today play an FPS game. Not only that, competitive gaming has brought in social media, global investors, brands, and live streaming to create the billion-dollar esports industry. Esports is relatively young but, just like social media when it started, its true potential could be beyond our wildest imaginations.