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How eSports Are Taking Over The World

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Summary

At a recent event hosted by Coutts, how to monetise competitive gaming was the hot topic

3 min read

Leading figures from across the UK’s esports industry gathered in London last month as the number of global spectators in the sector reached hundreds of millions.

Tech experts, business people, league and tournament organisers, team owners and investors discussed ways of monetising the audience, during the event organised by Coutts and Strive Sponsorship.

The industry is maturing rapidly – the League of Legends final held last year at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles attracted 43 million unique viewers. In addition, a tournament known as The International, which attracts players of Dota2 (Defence of the Ancients) gave out prize money totalling $24 million –sourced from selling virtual equipment to everyday players.

Malph Minns, Managing Director of Strive Sponsorship, says: “The premise of our event was ‘how can we help people to better monetise their fan base’? At the moment, because of the immaturity of the industry in the UK, it’s still at investment stage. So people are putting a lot of money into building audiences and infrastructure. What they want to do now is drive bigger revenues.”

Esports is essentially competitive video gaming viewed as a spectator sport, sometimes live in arenas but more often online. The Guardian recently quoted a global audience figure for the industry of 385 million. Malph is at pains to point out that accurate figures for the sector are in question, with those within the industry worried about inflated figures and different research companies arriving at different results. But one thing they all agree on is its growth potential. Some players, such as South Korea’s 21-year-old Faker, are thought to make as much as £2 million a year.

“The industry is maturing rapidly – the 2016 League of Legends world final held at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles attracted 43 million unique viewers”

A number of traditional sports teams are already taking notice. In football, Manchester City, West Ham, Wolfsburg and Paris Saint-Germain have all employed professional esports players. Meanwhile in the US, NBA team The Philadelphia 76ers acquired two esports teams. So far, however, it’s fantasy and not sports-related games that are attracting the biggest audiences. Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke recently bought the franchise for the fantasy game Overwatch in Los Angeles for a reported £15 million, while Jennifer Lopez is also reported to have invested in a team.

The media is also waking up to the impact of esports. The Daily Mail has taken on a full time esports journalist. Sky screens a 24-hour esports channel called Ginx TV, while the BBC and BT both cover the matches. Amazon has also become a huge force in the industry after it spent almost $1 billion to acquire Twitch, the platform on which almost all esports matches are streamed, as well as launching its own games publishing business.

The industry is led by South Korea and the US and there are significant numbers of viewers in countries such as Russia, Poland and Germany. The UK is behind the curve in most areas. There are no top professional esports players who are British and although one of the best-known teams, Fnatic, is British-owned and based in London’s Shoreditch, the players themselves are largely overseas nationals.

Britons are making a name for themselves as commentators – or shoutcasters , as they are known to fans. And things are beginning to change at grassroots level across the UK – a company called Gfinity transformed a Vue cinema screen in Fulham into the UK’s first dedicated esports arena. The high street retailer GAME has also created its network of Belong esports arenas and runs the UK Masters tournament and the Insomnia gaming festival, the NEC’s biggest event of the year.

It is a new and exciting form of entertainment and by sharing knowledge and expertise across the industry, the UK can play a major role in its development.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Coutts closely follows the latest developments in technology and entertainment. In the case of esports – or computer gaming as a spectator sport – we brought key people from across the industry together to discuss how best to monetize tournaments that can attract millions of viewers.

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Coutts Sports and Entertainment team was established in 1999 and today we are proud to work with some of the leading contemporary sports people and creatives.

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