This week the ‘eSports IQ by Alex Fletcher‘ features the following content: Audiences vs. Viewership in eSports; Toeing the wagering line in gaming; Is livestreaming the next killer feature?; A collegiate eSports scholarship arms race?

Audiences vs. Viewership in eSports

Announcement of the Azubu and ESL partnership, not only highlights the rapidly changing business of eSports broadcasts, but also hints at the importance of audience building. The two year agreement between Azubu and ESL includes, among other things, access to exclusive content. While exclusive rights to broadcasts are a notable notch in Azubu’s competition against larger, more popular platforms like Twitch; and continuance of the company’s strategy, which saw Azubu purchase streaming rights for several Korean eSport pros, there is considerable difference between essentially funneling viewership and building audiences.

Even with a growing trunk of content that can’t be found anywhere else except Azubu, it’s not entirely clear if the purchase of exclusivity will lead to an appreciable increase in overall user attention. One of the main strengths of Twitch, current leader in the eSports streaming space, is the draw of sustained attention it courts from its viewers. Twitch doesn’t just attract viewers, it creates massive audiences – groups of engaged, and loyal users that spend time interacting with content and returning to the site frequently. According to streaming analytics service, Gamoloco, the ESL Counter Strike Global Offensive channel on Twitch attracted over 8,000 years of combined time from its audiences in 2015 (see image below). The magnitude of that figure stems, in great part, from the value of a community experience in audience building.

Audiences vs. Viewership in eSports

In order for Azubu to continue to gain ground, the company must do more than attempt to buy viewership via exclusivity deals. Digital audiences are built as much around a sense of social community as the content being consumed. Azubu will do well to build a true user base over simply focusing on pulling more viewers to its site. Viewers leave when broadcasts end, users find their way back and engage consistently.

Nonetheless, a healthy competitive balance in the eSports streaming space depends on Azubu continuing to emerge as a viable alternative. While the ESL partnership doesn’t hurt, it’s more important to fill out an array of entertainment options (see: strong streaming community) which complements exclusive broadcasts. Doing so will help attract audiences, not just inflate viewership numbers.

Toeing the wagering line in gaming

The launch of Evolve Arenas, an online gaming platform that pits players versus other players for real money wagers, once again highlights the thin legal distinction between games of chance and skill. In the United States, where wagering on games of chance are widely illegal, real money competitive gaming tournaments seem to parallel online poker, whose major players suffered sweeping indictments by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2011. It’s not clear if companies like Evolve Arena plan escape the ire of authorities by placing an indefinite cap on wager amounts. In the same way that small money wagers add an allure to competition, the natural trajectory is increasingly higher stakes. Eventually players will want to wager more money; a reality which casts a shadow of doubt on the growth strategy on pure play, hands-on gaming for cash companies.

Is livestreaming the next killer feature?

While it’s long since official that livestreaming has arrived as a broadcast medium, Google is now rolling out in-game streaming capabilities for mobile games. While the play à record à share paradigm isn’t new in the world of mobile gaming, where several companies are clawing for users, shareable mobile gaming moments could be the first popular application for embedded livestreaming. With social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, already moving forward with livestreaming features, social and competitive gaming communities are strong candidates to accelerate the shift towards widespread adoption.

A collegiate eSports scholarship arms race?

Gaming accessory provider, KontrolFreek recently announced a “groundbreaking 2016 Collegiate eSports Scholarship Program.” The company plans to mete out $20,000 in scholarships to ten (10) recipients for the 2016 & 2017 academic years, to aid pursuit of a college education by competitive video game players. It will be interesting to note the role that the video game industry plays in the growth of eSports across North American college campuses. Will large established developers begin to invest heavily in scholarships programs in hopes of strengthening player bases at the college level? And will that lead to a general trend? Younger generations in the USA, facing skyrocketing costs in pursuing a college degree, could start factoring in the availability of scholarship money into decisions about which games to play competitively, at an early age. If certain game titles develop better collegiate ecosystems than others, it’s not entirely unrealistic for future adolescent/early teen gamers, who are considering college, to be swayed in a given direction.

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About ‘eSports IQ’

The ‘eSports IQ’ is compiled by Alex Fletcher, the founder and president of Entiva Group, LLC, and features insights on the latest emerging trends in eSports. By curating invaluable content from a wide range of information sources you get the leading edge in the business of eSports. The complicated past (and future) of esports on TV

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Image source:, Photographer: Kirill Bashkirov