When it comes to video games, old stereotypes die hard. Even in 2016, Baby Boomers or members of Generation X are still likely to associate gaming with time-wasting, antisocial children. But the truth is, gaming is fast becoming one of the most social, competitive and commercially viable tech industries on the globe.
Small business owners would do well to take notice, too. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved and lucrative benefits to be won.
What is eSports?
When we talk about professional and competitive gaming, these both fall under the wider realm of electronic sports, or ‘eSports’. Until fairly recently, the underground realm of eSports was largely limited to a few annual, international contests that pitted a tiny gaggle of amateur gamers against one another in a series of live contests. Yet as crowds of spectators began to flock to these events in the early 2010s, tournaments began to increase in frequency.
Jaw-dropping cash prizes have been introduced, official leagues have been established and huge multinationals have stepped in to offer generous sponsorship deals. And America’s appetite for eSports is only set to build upon that momentum further still.
Researchers estimate the eSports market is currently worth around $612 million, with a regular built-in audience of 134 million. More important still, there is a growing pool of 35 million self-described eSports ‘fans’ who actively follow leagues and players in the US — the majority of which fall within a highly coveted 16 to 34 demographic. Worldwide, it’s been estimated that eSports has a potential audience of up to 1.4 billion spectators.
Small Business Deals
Networks and media outlets are already attempting to leverage that demand. Last year, the BBC broke new ground by airing an eSports league tournament event live on air for the first time ever. And in May, TBS started airing regular American league events every Friday night for three months solid.
Bearing in mind the fledgling industry’s huge potential, it’s little wonder eSports has infiltrated the mainstream so quickly. The question for small business owners, then, will be how it may be possible to hop on the bandwagon in order to capitalize on that success.
Types of eSports
Esports encompasses a wide range of games, each with its own unique mechanics, strategies, and competitive scenes. Broadly speaking, esports titles can be categorized based on their gameplay and objectives. Here are some of the main types of esports:
- First-Person Shooters (FPS): These games are played from a first-person perspective, where players control characters that wield firearms or other weapons. The primary objective is usually to eliminate the opposing team or achieve specific tasks. Popular examples include “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO) and “Overwatch.”
- Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA): In MOBAs, two teams compete to destroy the other team’s main structure while defending their own. Players control individual characters, each with unique abilities. Titles like “Dota 2” and “League of Legends” are renowned in this category.
- Real-Time Strategy (RTS): These games require players to gather resources, build structures, and create armies to battle opponents. Decision-making, planning, and strategy are crucial. “StarCraft II” is a prime example of this genre.
- Sports Simulation: These titles emulate real-world sports in a digital environment. Games like “FIFA,” “NBA 2K,” and “Madden NFL” are popular sports simulation esports.
- Fighting Games: In this category, players control characters with distinct fighting styles and move sets, battling one-on-one until one player is defeated. Classics in this genre include “Street Fighter,” “Tekken,” and “Super Smash Bros.”
- Battle Royale: A relatively newer genre, these games drop players onto a map where they must find weapons and equipment while the play area shrinks. The last player or team standing wins. “Fortnite” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG) are notable examples.
- Racing: These games simulate racing competitions, where players compete to finish a track in the shortest time or outpace opponents. Titles like “Gran Turismo” and “F1” fall into this category.
|Esport Genre||Description||Gameplay Objective||Popular Examples|
|First-Person Shooters (FPS)||Played from a first-person perspective. Players control characters with firearms or other weapons.||Eliminate the opposing team or achieve specific tasks.||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch|
|Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)||Players control individual characters with unique abilities. Two teams compete against each other.||Destroy the other team's main structure while defending their own.||Dota 2, League of Legends|
|Real-Time Strategy (RTS)||Players gather resources, build structures, and create armies. Decision-making, planning, and strategy are essential.||Defeat the opponent through strategic resource management and combat.||StarCraft II|
|Sports Simulation||Digital emulation of real-world sports.||Achieve victory in a sports competition, adhering to the rules of the real-world sport.||FIFA, NBA 2K, Madden NFL|
|Fighting Games||Players control characters with distinct fighting styles and move sets.||Defeat the opponent in one-on-one combat scenarios.||Street Fighter, Tekken, Super Smash Bros|
|Battle Royale||Players are dropped onto a map to find weapons and equipment. The play area shrinks over time.||Be the last player or team standing.||Fortnite, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG)|
|Racing||Simulate racing competitions, either realistic or arcade-style.||Finish a track in the shortest time or outpace opponents.||Gran Turismo, F1|
Each type of esport offers a unique gaming experience, attracting diverse audiences and players with varying skills and interests. As the industry continues to grow, it’s expected that more genres and innovative titles will emerge, further enriching the esports landscape.
Benefits of Getting Involved in eSports for Small Businesses
Over the past few years, the esports industry has exploded in popularity, garnering millions of viewers, massive prize pools, and creating numerous opportunities for businesses of all sizes. Small businesses, in particular, can reap several benefits by getting involved in this burgeoning industry.
- Audience Reach: Esports offers small businesses access to a massive, global audience. With millions of fans tuning in to watch competitive matches, leagues, and tournaments, businesses can gain visibility by sponsoring teams, players, or events. This audience is also relatively young and tech-savvy, making them an attractive demographic for many small business products and services.
- Brand Alignment: The dynamic and forward-thinking nature of esports can be an ideal match for businesses looking to position themselves as innovative and in-tune with current trends. Associating with esports can give businesses an edge, appealing to a demographic that values tech-forward and modern brands.
- Community Engagement: Esports fans are incredibly passionate and engaged. By entering the esports world, small businesses can tap into this passion, fostering brand loyalty and creating tight-knit communities around their products or services. Engaging with fans through social media, online forums, or in-person events can create strong, lasting relationships.
- Diverse Marketing Opportunities: Esports provides a plethora of marketing avenues. Whether it’s in-game advertising, team jersey sponsorships, or hosting local viewing parties, there’s a wide range of innovative ways for small businesses to promote their brand.
By leveraging these benefits, small businesses can not only tap into a vast new audience but also foster deep connections and stay ahead of the curve in modern marketing trends.
How Can Small Businesses Join In?
Large brands are already bending over backwards to get in on a piece of the action. Mega talent agency WME | IMG has snatched up all of the industry’s rising stars, and multinationals like Coca-Cola and Red Bull are emerging as regular event sponsors. The prizes for winning teams at those events can now run in excess of $1 million — which is likely out of the question for the bulk of small business owners. But there are plenty of ways to flirt with eSports without breaking the bank.
One of the easiest ways to get your brand name out there and in front of potential customers at these blockbuster gaming events is to become a joint sponsor of a team, venue or individual within a regular league. Companies like SponsorOP help to connect brands with various affordable eSports sponsorship and collaborative opportunities.
Local bars, cafes, restaurants and movie theaters are already getting actively involved in an entirely different way. Rather than attempt to buy their way into world championship events, they are working to attract the sport’s grassroots fan base with regular tournaments, game nights or live streaming international league events on the big screen.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of ways to get involved in eSports. The key is to be fun, be creative and be willing to think outside the box. This is an up-and-coming industry with ever-evolving needs and a rapidly increasing fan base. Right now, it looks like the sky is the limit. There’s certainly no harm in checking it out.