Just a few years ago competitive gaming was the kind of hobby that gaming purists kept very much to themselves, often conducted locally and with next to no media exposure.
The rise of e-sports – led by East and Southern Asian countries – has completely turned that on its head, with a global turnover rapidly nearing $1bn.
Compared to more traditional sports that may sound comparative pennies, but the fact is that nobody can deny the near certain probability that e-sports is going to continue to grow in value enormously.
With Betway88 now available in Thailand and rumored to be looking to enhance their e-sports betting options, let’s take a look at why this phenomenon is here to stay.
An Enormous Audience Willing To Spend
As mentioned above, e-sports has only been on the scene for at best a few years and already it has attracted a huge following.
Thanks to a combination of widespread internet streaming and gaming becoming an ever more mainstream hobby, it is estimated that Asia has somewhere between 20-25 million active fans watching competitive online gaming, with around 150 million active participants (those who play for kicks, not professionally).
Assuming current trends continue, that figure is only going to keep growing. Currently, the annual growth rate is an astonishing 38%!
Interestingly, and especially appealing for advertisers and broadcasting companies, the demographic isn’t what many people would assume.
Studies have suggested a strong female following, and that these aren’t just bored teenagers watching for tips on how to get better at popular games such as League of Legends or Overwatch.
A good proportion is in the 18-30-year-old bracket, with disposable incomes that they are willing to spend towards following their e-sports hobby.
E-sports Is Going Mainstream
Key to maintaining this staggering growth in revenue is of course media exposure. Asia is setting an example of how e-sports is becoming ever more integrated with what we may term the ‘established’ sporting scene.
One notable and much-quoted example is that across the region 20.4 million people tuned in to the NBA finals, whereas 33 million watched the 2017 League of Legends World Cup.
Asian sports networks have already launched regular coverage of the big name competitions because of these audience figures, which of course are also supported by an enormous amount of user-generated online content.
The 2020 Hangzhou Asian Games are going to set a landmark by including E-sports competitors among the list of competitors.
In 2022, e-sports is scheduled to be included in that year’s games. Thailand is so determined to make e-sports work that they’re building a dedicated e-sports Arena, which is set to be a world-leading venue for hosting gaming tournaments well after the games have closed.
Olympic pundits are keeping a close an eye on seeing how successful this inclusion turns out to be, with the most optimistic even suggesting that it could make the 2024 Paris Olympics. That timescale may be a little bold but it’s certainly odds-on for being included in the 2028 tournament.
There’s Big Money For The Best
One of the controversies in the sport over the last couple of years has been the remuneration packages available for star players and teams. Most of these players were amateurs a year or two ago, and now enjoy heavily incentivized contracts thanks to enormous sponsorship partnerships.
Unsurprisingly, many of the most prominent players happen to be Asian, with League of Legends player Lee Sang Hyeok believed to have become the first e-sports athlete to earn over $1m.
Considering the competition these athletes face – literally hundreds of millions of other players – it’s still proving awkward for their success to be recognized outside of the e-sports scene.
This has been especially the case in success driven cultures such as Singapore. On the plus side, major e-sports companies such as Chaos Theory have led the way in developing a professional set-up that treats their players as employees.
No doubt this will become the norm with players enjoying much more employment and contractual protection – and let’s face it, the fans will demand it!