As long as video games have existed, there have been competitions that featured them. The earliest known competition was a game of Spacewar played before an audience in 1972. Donkey Kong players around the world competed for high scores, with the first record holder recognized in 1982. Tetris and Space Invaders tournaments drew competitors from around the world.
Today's massive multiplayer games like Fortnite, League of Legends, and Overwatch have traveling world champion players and teams who train as vigorously as any traditional professional athlete. There are even college level Esports teams in a range of popular games. With all the hype, have you wondered what the appeal is? Should your venue be investing in Esports events? There are many reasons that these games have wide and growing appeal, as well as great reasons for venues to invest in the ability to host Esports events.
Esports Has Variety and Wide Appeal
There are more video games than ever before, and the quality of them has increased dramatically in the last twenty years. Investment in well-known actors to model for characters and act out dialog leads to quality storytelling. Enhanced graphics make for a better viewing experience. There are games for every taste available: some viewers enjoy more story-oriented games, where they can watch drama unfold as the players proceed while others enjoy the high speed energy of first-person shooters. Still—others love to watch Esports versions of traditional sports that include watching virtual football in the Madden titles or basketball in NBA franchise games.
Esports audiences are highly engaged while attending live events—with a festive atmosphere and fan energy rivaling Super Bowl level, even for smaller tournaments. The participatory element is a big part of what makes Esports so appealing to so many people.
As a venue manager, Esports allow you to attract new audiences. A wider range of people who wish to attend events at your venue means more chances to get excited viewers into seats. And because Esports tournaments are held year-round, there are many chances to get in on the action. You can host live tournaments at your venue, or host live stream events for your local audience to enjoy a global tournament together.
While Esports and video gaming fandom has grown as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, Esports fanfare predates the pandemic—with tournaments and championships selling out packed arenas. In September 2019, the Overwatch League held its second championship series for the popular colorful multiplayer first-person shooter game from Blizzard, Overwatch. The Overwatch Grand League Finals, held at the Well Fargo Center in Philadelphia, featured the top two league teams, and sold out the Center. In addition to the fans at the arena, the event was broadcast on networks worldwide and available to livestream on Twitter and the Overwatch League website.
Overwatch, released in 2015, is certainly not the first video game to draw such a crowd. League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive are just a couple eSports tournament veterans. In 2019, the Counter Strike: Global Offensive Major Championship (known by fans as the “Majors”) was a two week tournament held at the Mercedes-Benz Arena and Ventri Music Hall in Berlin, Germany. The 2019 championship tournament for League of Legends, which consists of six rounds of competition, was held over six weeks across four venues in Berlin, Madrid, and Paris.
Teams have to participate in qualifying events, however, to make it to these big championships. Whether the event is a certified league game or a local gathering of fans, venues of all sizes can get in on the Esports action to bring this community together.
Access to Gaming Is Greatly Increased
As of 2020, there were over 260 million internet connected devices in the United States. For Esports, players compete on everything from home computers to dedicated consoles to mobile devices.
This access means that there are many more people playing at the amateur level. Many of these players love the opportunities to see luminaries in their favorite games compete live in front of them. The low barrier to entry means that there are far more potential players and far more viewers and fans.
Esports Players Are Diverse
While the industry is still growing in diversity, viewers are more likely to see people who look like them, and who they can identify with. This helps build rapport between players and audience, increasing the devotion of Esports fans.
Esports fans love opportunities to get together with fellow devotees of their favorite games. Often, this means going to live stream events in their local area to enjoy major tournaments occurring in other parts of the country or the world. When you host these events, you provide a place where they can enjoy a their favorite atmosphere together with others.
Esports Games & Events Are Profitable
As of 2020, the global Esports market was valued at over $950 million, and it’s estimated that revenue will hit $1.6 billion by 2023.
While the bulk of the Esports market is in North America and Asia, the industry continues to grow rapidly, with massive, sold out events in Esports arenas around the world. Between in-person viewers and those streaming from home, events like the FIFA eWorld Cup or the League of Legends Championship draw millions of viewers from around the world. In fact, ESPN has begun to cover Esports stories and competitions alongside traditional sporting events.
Preparing for Esports at Your Venue
Event venue operators know that adaptability and versatility are vital for growth and survival. Catering to the Esports audience means that you have more events to host, bringing in audiences while other sports are on hiatus for the season. By cultivating a relationship with Esports fans, you can bring in a new crowd with a passionate interest in a growing and exciting industry.
At Irwin Seating, we’ve been following Esports for awhile and looking into the unique needs of Esports viewers when it comes to their seating—like in-seat power and comfort for looking up at a screen instead of down onto a field or court. We shared our thoughts and innovations at the virtual 2020 Esports Summit hosted by PanStadia, and we’re continuing to follow Esports not as a trend, but a future mainstay for many venues.
Thinking about hosting Esports? Check out our highly customizable recliners and other seating options perfect for Esports.