Marketing

27 experts share their thoughts on the rise of eSports and its future in 2016

This year, the eSports market has experienced several changes, has gained a lot of new additions and received a high interest from classical media. Consequently, the eSports market experienced a rapid growth which poses the question what challenges the market will have to face in the upcoming year.

We asked 27 business-, marketing- and eSports experts about their thoughts on the growth of eSports in 2015 and what they expect to be the most interesting developments in the eSports market in the upcoming year.

Here are the responses:

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Craig Keller

Craig Keller
Digital Surgeons
eSports Strategist

“This past year was huge for the growth of eSports. The number of people who viewed eSports events had already doubled its total from all of 2014 in October. The production value of events has reached new heights thanks to innovative stage and broadcast production teams pushing the boundaries of their craft. Teams are getting more savvy about how to operate their businesses; becoming content creators and better marketers for the sponsors that fuel their bottom lines. The past year brought more dedicated eSports venues online, increased league standardization, and formalized training facilities for players opened up which have been doing their best to raise the level of competitive play. We saw a huge wave of new brands, such as MTG, making tremendous investments across the entire spectrum of eSports businesses, all looking to carve out their piece of the eSports pie. The eSports industry has only JUST hit its stride and will continue to evolve faster and faster going into 2016.

In the upcoming year, I think that we will see the deluge of brand investments continue as more become aware of eSports and its power as a marketing vehicle. As the eSports adoption lifecyle continues on it will become increasingly important for the brands in the early majority to deploy innovative marketing and monetization strategies when engaging the eSports audience as driving awareness and the right to engage with consumers becomes more competitive. Just as in today’s other highly competitive marketplaces, providing value to fans through authentic storytelling and experiences will remain paramount for eSports brands.

The brands who will win in eSports in 2016 are the ones who best demonstrate an ability to establish a constant dialogue through consistent engagement, and striving to surprise and delight the eSports fan through the experiences they create. By keeping the lines of communication open and delivering value throughout 2016 these brands will continue to enjoy access to the highly passionate, global network of advocates and influencers that make up eSports at a low cost. Big players like Twitch have the opportunity to really open the flood gates for marketers within eSports if we see them unlock better stream analytics and success measurement tools. I personally hope that 2016 brings commerce enabling features to streaming platforms that drive towards shoppable broadcasts. I predict that we will also begin to see an increased focus on digital and see more brands creating experiences that tap into the eSports customer’s context, drawing them in closer through an authentic context-designed engagement rather than creating loud ads that demand attention. I’m sure that 2016 will be the biggest year ever for eSports with the potential to be a paradigm shift for brands, fans, and players alike. It is a truly exciting time to be a part of this emerging marketplace, and I can’t wait to see whats next!”

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Wouter Sleijffers

Wouter Sleijffers
fnatic
CEO

“The growth in 2015 has more than doubled, and in particular the latter part of 2015 has contributed to that. For example we’ve achieved a larger part of our social media growth over the year in the second half of 2015. Presumably this trend will continue into 2016.

For the upcoming year I’d expect the following significant developments: An acceleration of acquisitions with further steep increase of valuations; At least one new major title breaking through to the top of eSports; Somewhat larger sponsorship deals but merchandising seeing much larger growth; An increase in regulation.”

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Jason Lake

Jason Lake
compLexity Gaming
Founder & CEO

“I think it’s readily apparent to all observers that 2015 was a huge year for eSports in all respects. Larger audiences, bigger prize pots, more investment and increased corporate awareness created a banner year for the industry.

Heading into 2016 I am incredibly bullish on the continued growth of professional gaming. We are going to see investment at higher levels, new exciting brands enter the team market, more television exposure in North America and increasing viewership.

We’ll also witness more and more famous consumer brands marketing in the space and I expect to see the gradual formation of the needed structure (associations, etc) to begin the formalization of the industry.

2016 is going to be an incredibly exciting year across the board.”

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Dennis Gehlen

Dennis Gehlen
TaKeTV
CEO / Founder

“The growth in 2015 was crazy like it already was the years before but games like Counter-Strike together with League of Legends put the attendance figures to new records and the overall interest to the “mainstream” market was reached with Majors and events in arenas like the Lanxess Arena or the one in Frankfurt.

More and more companies outside of the hardcore IT segment are joining and bigger Investors are trying to come into the market to be a part of it, which puts more and more money into the whole system.

It has been a great year for eSports but I have the feeling that next year will be even better and bigger and I can’t wait to see where we are going.

For 2016 I have the feeling that Overwatch could be a great addition to the FPS eSportsmarket and can reach good numbers which will attract new people and hopefully also sponsors, but I also think that we will have more and more live events with ticketing and a new way of earning money which just started. It is the same with merchandise which is growing very fast.

The quality of streaming is becoming better every year and it looks more and more like a good TV production, which is also very nice to see and will also bring more viewers to the tournaments.”

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Alex Fletcher

Alex Fletcher
Entiva Group
President

Gender issues loom large – Expect more focus on the gender gap in eSports to emerge. I expect this to come from outside the community as very few inside it are willing to acknowledge the issues faced by women in competitive gaming. However, with the rise of more female-only teams, e.g. Team Unikrn, these challenges will have to be addressed.

eSports on the big screen– 2016 is shaping up as a big year for eSports programming on TV. Everyone will be watching what TBS does with its CSGO league. However, the bigger picture is more and more TV outlets targeting gamers through eSports. Before the rise of competitive gaming it was too difficult for network executives to understand and package gaming friendly programming. eSports is similar enough to traditional sports to resonate with a more generic audience but also appeal to gamers.

Rise of the eSports franchise – With more venture capital and institutional investors buying eSports teams, the business of running a professional organization is going to undergo notable changes. This will fundamentally change the dynamics between team management, players, coaches and fans. Organizations will be under pressure to monetize their assets which will lead to new business models. This will affect the amount of commercialism present across the community, something which may or may not be greeted with open arms.”

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T. Bettina Cornwell

T. Bettina Cornwell
University of Oregon
Edwin E. and June Woldt Cone Professor of Marketing

“My orientation to eSports is from my background in corporate sponsorship research and strategy. Sponsorship has been key in the rapid development of eSports because sponsors contribute to events, teams, travel and prize money and individual endorser contracts. In some markets, major brands are “all in” as sponsors- Samsung in Korea comes to mind. In other markets, major brands are contemplating eSports but are hesitant.

As the world struggles with obesity and relatedly, with sedentary youth populations, brands are wondering about the image their brands will acquire if they acquire eSports sponsorships. There is an analogy to be made with MMA. Major sponsors held back until MMA cleaned up their rules and gained popular momentum. Sponsored eSports competitions are not life threatening marathon, “Ready Player One” exhaustion events but some bad press has kept some investments on hold.

I would argue that the hold is about to be released. More major sponsors beyond the techs like Intel and make-your-own-image types like Redbull will be interested in eSports. Money will flow toward high visual, high emotion events in big venues and dynamic international players that leverage their celebrity base on social media. Viewership is central but brand-building opportunities are often made offline. Next year’s challenge will be to manage growth and the pressures that come with sponsorship investment.”

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Thiemo Bräutigam

Thiemo Bräutigam
The eSports Observer
Editor in Chief

“There is no doubt that 2015 was the biggest year in esports history. We reached record breaking viewership numbers and jaw-dropping stacks of price money for our major events. The industry attracted huge attention not only by mainstream media but also by Venture Capital, Fantasy Sports and in Politics. We have seen some success in terms of better regulation and we debated important topics like Women in Esports, Player’s Rights, Salaries, etc.

It was also the year we launched eSports Career and eSports Observer with the goal to become the premier esports business hub in this industry. We grew far beyond our expectations in our first year. We were able to deliver insider knowledge by recognised veterans and experts and evolve into the place-to-be for esports professionals. In 2015 we went all the way from a well-conceived idea to a highly regarded company.

I’m sure that both our own and the industry’s successes will exceed all expectations in 2016.

TV deals are coming in, accompanied by more and more Venture Capital and expertise from other branches of the mass media entertainment industry. 2016 will be the year that esports will break new ground. As a consequence we are in urgent need to tackle topics were we are still behind. We need more diversity, a governing body to intervene in a regulative capacity, better player protection and overall more maturity in the esports industry. I sincerely hope that we are able to consolidate our growth into a healthy and sustainable industry. We can’t allow to let 2016 become the year of the esports bubble.”

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Patrick Walker

Patrick Walker
EEDAR
VP, Insights and Analytics

“eSports continued to grow steadily in in 2015, breaking past the 100MM viewer mark during the year. However, the real growth in 2015 was the increase in the mainstream awareness of eSports. The rapid growth has created excitement even in industries outside of gaming, such as television, fantasy sports, and advertising. In addition, we saw large investments by publishers, venture capital, and advertisers that suggest eSports has a stable, long-term future as a robust segment of the games industry.

eSports is getting the investment that it needs from major companies throughout the supply chain to create a lasting infrastructure. Recent examples of major company investments are the creation of an eSports division by Activision and the announcement of the PS Plus eSports leagues.

The most interesting development in eSports in 2016 will be to see the execution of some of the major initiatives announced in 2015. Activision Blizzard bringing in an established executive from television and eSports leagues to run their new eSports division is clearly a move to fast track eSports growth in their major titles. It will be interesting to see how they grow eSports while balancing the traditional goals of their major IP. For Sony, the creation of a PlayStation eSports league is likely a goal to make eSports competitions more accessible, so players other than professionals are incentivized to participate.”

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Matthias Remmert

Matthias Remmert
Freaks 4U Gaming GmbH
Attorney/Vice President

“In 2014/2015 eSports experienced a magnificent growth and a high attention out of the gaming sector. On the one hand there were purchases like the MLG/ESL-deal, on the other hand there were events like the ESL One Frankfurt or the ESL One Cologne which set new standards.

The interest from non-gaming-related media/press increased significantly and played a big part in contributing to the acceptance and awareness of eSports within the society. As a consequence, companies out of the gaming sector recognized eSports as an interesting market.

I think the debate about eSports being a ‘real sport’ is something we have to watch out for. Recently, France made the first step by considering eSports to be a real sport and in Germany we have been facing this discussion on a regular basis for years now and I am very curious what it will be like in the following months.

In general, I am very positive about the upcoming year. I expect all players of the market to professionalize even more. Additionally I expect classical media like TV to be more open to integrate eSports content to its program. Last but not least I am very happy the fact that the DreamHack will have its first stop in Germany and that we will trigger the eSports year 2016 in my home country.”

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Nicolas Cerrato

Nicolas Cerrato
gamoloco
Founder & CEO

“The rise of Esports in 2015 has been spectacular but I think it will actually accelerate in the coming years, starting as soon as 2016. The biggest stuff that happened in 2015 regarding the growth of Esports:

Inside Esports, some have found the gold:

  • Valve’s The International 5 distributing 18.5M dollars in cash prize
  • The rise and rise and rise of CSGO, perfectly pushed by Valve and ESL, both inside and outside the game
  • League of Legends keeping its crazy pace
  • More stadiums and arenas filled around the world than ever

What’s key here is that 2 big studios, Riot Games and Valve, the latter also being the biggest gaming store in the world, have understood how to foster Esports games and how to monetize them in order to take the passion, and the revenue, around their creations to new heights. Over the past 24 months, Valve opened so many golden doors with DOTA2 and CSGO, not so much with gameplay (the masterpiece gameplays of DOTA and CS have been around for a long time) but regarding their community eco-systems.

Following in the foot steps of Riot Games, and going way further even, Valve’s creativity in building community-supported business models is unparalleled and pushes the whole scene upwards. Pro gamers now make a lot of money, they now deserve more social respect than ever, in addition to fans already loving them. As a result, they will attract even more fans, and brands of course.

Outside Esports, big time industry outsiders paying very close attention, making their 1st moves:

  • MTG buying ESL and DH
  • Turner announcing its televised CS league, and other major TV channels evaluating how to enter the market
  • Endemol launching “Legends of Gaming”, a casual, made for Youtube, competitive gaming show with top Youtubers from around the world
  • The mainstream advertising business, the big players such as Orange and SFR in France, finally moving in or very close to doing it
  • Despite previous failures, AAA game publishers still all want a piece of Esports

With the recent growth, it’s not only hardcore fans who want a piece of Esports anymore:it’s everyone. Including industry leaders, wealthy companies looking for ways to reach out to a certain demographic have finally stopped thinking “this is nonsense”. Some have started to make their moves.

There will be mistakes, casualites on the way: not everyone will create amazing Esports content or invest in the killer pro gamer supported advertising campaign… But in the end, Esports are finally and definitely moving forward, and it’s not on a tricycle anymore.

In 2016, let the snowball roll

In 2016, the trend will keep going, but with more money invested and more high quality business talent working in Esports. Media companies, TV channels, audiovisual production companies, AAA game publishers and advertising agencies will end up getting it. They will end up understanding how to use the Esports lever to their advantage, they will learn how to produce cool stuff, how to raise the bar. Esports are very hard to crack to these people because the culture has been building for a long time in the dark and they’ve always chose to ignore it up until very recently… They have some catch up to do but in the end some will get it and, bringing their know how as well as financial means to the mix, will help it grow tremendously. That’s why 2015 is still so early stage. We need a few more Mark Cubans taking part in IEM show matches and a couple additional Jens Hilgers talks at IFA before Esports reaches what could tentatively be called cruising speed.

Also, the other major factor for Esports growth, besides building the business, is the passion that very few games can generate among gamers and viewers. League of Legends spurred more than significatn growth by proving there was good business to be done in Esports for a game studio. But with all the respect that I have for this immense game, it is still one for engineer type of people, hardcore geeks. How and when will the Esports audience meet Candy Crush’? When the right game comes out… and at this moment Esports will get a new major boost. It’s hard to predict who will do it, and when, but now the best creative people in the world have a good reason to wonder and work at building the next Esports hit, one that’s truly mainstream, as it will be a bottomless gold pit. Blizzard’s Overwatch could be a step in the right direction, let’s keep an eye on how the action unfolds around that one in 2016.””””””””””””

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Brandon J. Nolte

Brandon J Nolte
Esports Entrepreneur
Owner & CEO

“The industries growth over the past year has been stable, it’s been high in numbers, but the growth has come more in the terms of structure and legitimate exposure. In 2016 I expect to see developments in business to business market of eSports along with investor and outside industry mentoring.

The industry is extremely young and with recent investments topping $150 million, I really expect in later of 2016 for more sports professionals to step in and adapt the industry to have higher revenues.

So my three big points for 2016 are: 1) 2016 will be the year of industry adaptation – 2) The industry will offer more consumer goods from organizations in terms of fan gear and tangible goods
– 3) Sponsors will be innovating on how they market through organizations and other opportunities”

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Jaap Visser

Jaap Visser
ESL
Business Dev. Manager

“2015 was definitely a very interesting year for esports – we’ve seen bigger events being held in bigger venues for steadingly increasing prize pools, and one viewership record was broken after another.

Having seen this amazing growth this year, I’m very excited to see what 2016 will bring. One strong trend I’ve noticed this year – and believe will continue next year – is the growing interest of non-endemic brand in the esports industry. Lifestyle, clothing, FMCG and many other types of brands continue trying to reach the esports fan and seek endorsements of esports superstars. In 2016, professional gaming will definitely get a strong foot in the door with traditional media, and TV broadcast of esports competition will be more of a norm than an exception to it.

One aspect that ESL will focus on strongly will be the user and fan experience at our events and increasing the production value to further match the level of production you can see at traditional sports events. ESL One, IEM and ESL Pro League events will be enriched with a “festival” experience, where an entire array of activities will be added to the core event – as such, interaction with the pro gamers and being a part of the live event will become a key element at all our events.”

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Patrick Ryan

Patrick Ryan
Esports Maybe
Co-Founder

“The growth of esports in 2015 has been explosive. In 2016, esports will move even further into the mainstream.

Every day when I read through the esports news, there is at least one article from Forbes or Fortune titled something similar to “Esports will be worth more than the NFL by 2018″. This is old news and carries no weight.

The most important thing you need to know about competitive gaming, it is its own thing. It has existed before us and will exist after us. It doesn’t need approval from traditional sports or airtime on ESPN. Advertisers and investment are nice, but the real meat has always existed in the player base and their fans. The world of competitive gaming will continue to grow regardless of the additional attention in 2016.”

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Greg Agius

Greg Agius
Corsair
Director of Game Marketing

“It’s remarkable that much of the continued growth in eSports is being fueled by the same top 3 games from 2014. Traditionally games come in and out of favor much like movie releases. But clearly eSports fans are taking a very sophisticated view of these games and appreciating them at a very deep level. It’s just like any other sport, same game, but the skill and excitement on offer continues to be compelling to draw ever larger audiences.

For 2016 it will be interesting to see if more mainstream brands start getting involved in a deeper level with eSports. Certainly brands like Coke have already made sponsorship plays. But with the huge audience of valuable M18-34 viewers one would expect deeper participation. When will we see our first Nike ad with an eSports player? When will Gatorade start sponsoring a major team, etc. I think brands like these will play a big role in making eSports even larger in the mainstream.”

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Saad Sarwar

Saad Sarwar
Level99
Head of Gameplay

“It’s hard to ‘evaluate the growth of esports’ because there’s so much going on across the world I’m not aware of, but just looking at Europe and North America it’s clear that eSports has picked up tremendously in terms of general public awareness.

This year in reflection has been wonderful for those ‘early believers’ of eSports who risked so much such a long time ago in esports time (10 years back and further). Some of those people’s visions of the future saw realization in 2015 and helped the rest of us maintain perspective on an industry that came from such humble beginnings not too long ago.

Sold out sports stadiums, an $18 million dollar prize pool, the dominance of free to play and the continued liberation of talent in the space have been the headlines I’ve been most wow’d by.

The most interesting development will be watching how existing publishers of esport titles deal with the influx of public attention and growing player base against the threat of competition from new publishers launching titles during a higher visibility ‘era’ than industry peers.

It’ll also be exciting to see whether 2016 will see some form of esports council/regulatory board emerge and what impact that will have on the accepted business practices by teams, tournaments and brands.”

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Alexander T. Müller

Alexander T. Müller
SK Gaming
Managing Director

“In general 2015 saw the growth of the market increase.

With MTG buying the majority stake of Turtle Entertainment and Dreamhack in total, we have one huge player in the market now. Other media entities will answer to this development in the future for sure.

We also saw Valve adjust their league and tournament structure for both, CS and DotA which will have a huge impact on the future as well.

All in all I strongly believe the growth rate will excelerate in 2016 and the coming years.”

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Rojo Galvín

Rojo Galvín
Ozone Gaming
Brand Manager

““This year we´ve seen an enormous growth of eSports, not only in terms of the industry but also in terms of eSports enthusiasts. There are many market research studies showing that with impressive numbers. So it’s a matter of fact, eSports are real, massive and unstoppable.

There are new titles coming up in 2016, new actors in the market and new business models popping up, therefore it is difficult to predict which direction the development of the industry is going to take.

In my opinion, one of the more important facts defining the development of the eSports market this upcoming year, will be the investment of brands apparently not related with videogames or eSports.

Brands like Coca-Cola, Nissan or Domino’s Pizza are already taking part, but what about fashion brands, or the cosmetics industry for example? Will it be strange to see a financial institution investing in eSports? Why not airlines or railway companies? The opportunities given by esports are extremely diverse and I think that the mentioned companies will no longer be able to turn away from them.”

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Martin Klimscha

Martin Klimscha
Hitbox Entertainment
CEO & Co-Founder

“ESports has seen significant growth in 2015, and we will see even more games, tournaments and teams in 2016. The audience for live tournaments will continue to expand rapidly and eventually will rival traditional professional sports. The appeal of eSports is global – unlike many traditional sports — and that’s hugely attractive to publishers, brands and media companies.

In 2016, we’ll see traditional media companies work hard to gain a foothold. However, chat, content sharing, and interactivity are core to the eSports viewing experience so the online media channels, like Hitbox, will continue to lead. We understand the games, the players and how teams and tournaments must be organized to scale with this explosive growth.””

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Roger Quiles, Esq.

Roger Quiles, Esq.
Roger Quiles, Esq.
Attorney at law

“eSports took some substantial steps forward in 2015. In addition to record setting viewership, one of the most important developments in 2015 was that traditional media outlets got much more involved in eSports. Whether it was ESPN2’s airing of the Heroes of the Dorm tournament, MTG’s acquisition of Dreamhack and ESEA, or TBS’ announcement of a CS:GO league that it will broadcast in 2016, it is undeniable that traditional media outlets are taking the first steps towards bringing eSports into the mainstream media for possibly greater consumption.

In 2016, I’m looking forward to seeing further integration of eSports in traditional media. The eSports business community, as well as the sports business community, will be paying close attention to the TBS CS:GO league to note its successes, failures, and ultimately to see if the substantial eSports viewership translates to television. Regardless of whether eSports has a future on television, partnerships with traditional media outlets may still be fruitful through their substantial online presences.”

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Michael Bister

Michael Bister
Turtle Entertainment
Head of Pro Gaming Germany

“2015 was a very interesting year for the eSports business. The developments of 2014 continue and bridge the gap to (an interesting year) 2016.

In 2014, eSports made a huge step: Arenas were filled; prize money increased to millions of dollars; new records were set in terms of attendance figures (online and offline).

In 2015, this development continued and media/press captured it by adding the eSports to its coverage. eSports showed to be a growing and promising market and that 2014 was not just a fleeting star.

2016 will be a year that outclasses everything we have experienced so far. The business will become bigger, faster and more diverse – in every aspect: the demography of viewers/players; the possibilities to integrate partners, the diversity of sponsors; even more spectacular events etc.

Moreover, I am anxious to see the developments I cannot influence directly, meaning the development of players and teams. There is huge potential in the matter of structure, management and other aspects. I think this will become a very important segment. Fan mentalities, players belonging to a team etc.”

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Erik Saler

EriK Saler
Liquipedia
Head

“The growth for 2015 was fairly steady. Viewer numbers went up. There was a steady increase in the interest from people and corporations not previously involved in esports. A few new big sponsor brands moving into the market, and more prize money than the previous year. More broadcasts on more TV networks too. There have been some huge deals with companies from outside the industry who have come into it. MTG for example buying DreamHack and ESEA, and a controlling majority of the ESL stocks. And also the deal Virtus Pro got with Alisher Usmanov, a Russian Oligarch.

So for 2016 we can expect more big media companies trying to get into the space to get a piece of the pie and for the current big players to try to get a bigger slice. For example there’s the rumour that Yahoo is looking to buy MLG.

Merchandising is going to become a bigger part too, both for virtual and real goods. Relying mostly on an ad & sponsor model (with the occasional crowd-funding) to get the revenue needed is not going to cut it the more competitive the salaries for players and to give better productions for the viewers.

Which will keep on raising the barrier for a smooth transition between grass-roots organizations and productions to the more professional ones, creating an industry that slowly is becoming more and more a business and less of a passion.”

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Dave Rosenberg

Dave Rosenberg
GMR Marketing
Chief Strategic Officer

“The growth of eSports is unique in a world of excessive content, rising sports rights values and increasing Internet penetration. There are few marketing communications opportunities with the continuing potential of eSports. A brand that builds an integrated plan with a long-term view perspective, an authentic message/story and a community engagement strategy could find itself with a tremendous sales and marketing platform. Those brands that continue to over analyze eSports, or question the evaluation of the platforms growth are fundamentally missing the point. What matters is that at every marketing touch point eSports is attracting huge audiences who are passionately engaged in the content. We believe that the brands that focus their attention and resources on defining strategic approaches around both the business and the culture of eSports will be the brands that succeed in this space.

Moving forward, research and measurement will be the most interesting and important development to watch in 2016. There is a need for more quantitative and qualitative measurement in eSports that will allow brands to better evaluate their ability to leverage this channel as a means to engage their target consumer, achieve their marketing and sales objectives and address business and marketing challenges and opportunities. Examples of the need for greater availability of this data include eSports’ digital reach and consumption and the breadth of its global footprint.

Additionally, the development of brand and consumer research and the engagement experience within eSports will provide brands the ability to analyze data and realize the optimal integration for them within the eSports ecosystem. Utilizing these data points and analytics to develop sponsorship and asset evaluation models will ensure that they are investing both effectively and efficiently in eSports opportunities. While it is difficult to use traditional professional sports as the measuring stick for this relatively new and unique phenomenon, GMR strongly believes that these two sports entities don’t directly compete and should not be measured, analyzed or evaluated against each other.”

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Marco Chillon

Marco Chillon
Razer (Europe) GmbH
General Manager Europe

“eSport has had another great year, with growing number of events in Europe and worldwide, exploding number of viewing audience and certainly as well a rising media attention. Especially the number of people following tournaments like Dreamhack Open on any possible digital device is a highlight for the industry, involved teams, gaming brands and investors.

We hope this trend will continue, with more people having the opportunity to experience a live event and dive into the atmosphere of live eSport. For very popular AAA eSport titles like Counter Strike or League of Legends this is mind-blowing.

But as well special interest games, like Ultra Street Fighter IV are becoming more and more viewers and so these tournaments receive the well-deserved attention.

Streaming live gameplay of these games and from these events will help to establish this category and drive innovation of new products for a better experience where ever we are.”

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Flavio Wirz

Flavio Wirz
Flavio Wirz Consulting
Owner and Consultant

“Generally speaking the growth of eSports in 2015 has been massive. We saw MTG buying ESL, DreamHack and lately also ESEA. We saw a massive growth of viewership, especially in CS:GO. Tournament prizemoney grew steadily and we now have a variety of games that are being watched by a big audience.

For me there are three distinct developments to look out for in the upcoming year if not years. One is professionalisation. This is something that needs to happen everywhere. When it comes down to tournament organisers or leagues we have already reached the point where we have a high level of professionalism. However, if we look at the teams, even some of the bigger ones, there is massive room for improvement. Especially when it comes down to content production, which I believe is still being underestimated by many organisations.

The second development will be consolidation. As it happened with ESL, DreamHack and ESEA I think we will see more companies being bought up and then maybe eventually even merged. Some may believe this is a bad thing but especially what happened now with the tournament organisers has a massive plus side. It will unify rulesets, make it easier for teams to find their way through the jungle of tournaments and I believe also enhance content production quality.

The third development is one that has already started. The law and legal issues will become more important in future. Extra attention by bigger media outlets and reaching more people will also lead to a more serious look at different legal matters. In eSports there are still a lot of legal aspects that may lead to issues such as underage gambling, a discussion that has already started, or player contracts that are probably quite often not very well written in legal terms.

Overall I think we will have a lot of interesting discussions and stories in the next year and some of them may also turn out negatively. We now need to pay attention that we focus on sustainable growth rather than fast growth as otherwise it may eventually lead to disaster. We have had big blows in the past and I sincerely hope that we learned our lesson.”

Follow Flavio Wirz on linkedintwitter and linkedinLinkedin.

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Drew Holt-Kentwell

Drew Holt-Kentwell
Catalyst eSports Solutions
Founder and Managing Director

“eSports has evolved drastically this last year, leaving fans and long-time proponents of the industry rather excited by the prospects of the future. The bubble is long gone, as eSports now becomes a self-sustaining industry driven in large part by sponsorships and advertising. Larger teams are learning how to effectively monetize – slowly but surely – and the evolution of virtual wagering in eSports, increasing support of the ecosystem by the game developers, and the constant aim to perfect production and entertainment by event organizers are all responsible for this rapid growth.

Looking to 2016 I believe that merchandise, licensed product and apparel will grow drastically as a sector as teams and their brands begin to spread far and wide, and fans look for ways to assimilate with their favorite clubs. I also see a growing need for teams to professionalize in order to generate the required value which sponsors and brands will so desperately need to justify their expenditure. I also believe that 2016 will be the year of FPS games. CS:GO continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, and with Halo 5’s launch, and the launch of Black Ops III and Activision’s league, there’s plenty to get excited for in the year ahead.”

Follow Drew Holt-Kentwell on linkedintwitter and linkedinLinkedin.

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Christian Hesse

Christian Hesse
Schenker Technologies GmbH
eSports-/Gaming Marketing Manager

“No one can deny the fact that eSports has grown in 2015 and that financials, audiences, prizemoney, distribution, general media attention has too. Even beyond what most people would have expected. It is a whole other matter, to evaluate if the growth we experienced in 2015 was a good one. It will be most interesting to see how all that money that has come into the industry will be spend and if it will eventually impact our business in a positive or negative way.

There is really no way of knowing if eSports, as the industry that we know now, will be existing in the same way in a couple of years and we should all be aware that some of the most traditional teams might disappear and that regional eSports is at a downfall, which will likely continue to be the case in 2016.

For me personally the most interesting development in 2016 will be to see if publishers and organizations (including me of course) will understand that the fascination for eSports does not really cover only the events in arenas, but really does start on a city/province wide level. It will be interesting to see what happens when some of the bigger names disappear and if there is room for young talent to actually surface. There is an urgent need for regional competition.

Of course it will also be really interesting to see if new eSports titles finally make their way onto the bigger stages, as Hearthstone did in 2015. The portfolio in eSports needs to be wider in the nearer future, or people will get bored – There are some interesting candidates, and I am curious if games like Overwatch, HeroesofTheStorm, Rainbow Six Siege or Battleborn will manage to find enough fans to actually make eSports a more diverse place to work in.”

Follow Christian Hesse on linkedintwitter and linkedinLinkedin.

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Ibo Mazari

Ibo Mazari
digitale-spielwiese.org
Owner

“Livestream hits, klicks on Youtube videos/channels and websites as well as visitors of live events are crucial indices of the growth of eSports.

Unlike in 2013, most of the income within the eSports market was generated through advertising revenue. Therefore it was a normal consequence that media companies acquired a financial interest or bought up companies completely. Therefore I expect a further professionalizing for 2016 combined with a stronger connection between eSports and media content.

One of the most critical points of the eSports market are the games being played. eSports is an inconsistent phenomenon and it is very dependent on its games and its communities. But unlike in classical sports, in eSports, leagues and tournaments do not have full control because they have to rely on game publishers whose interests often distinguish from the goals of these operators. This is a big problem and I think this will be one of the biggest challenges eSports will have to face in the future.

Follow Ibo Mazari on linkedintwitter and linkedinLinkedin.

// Image source: eslgaming.com / Photograph: Helena Kristiannson

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This blog is published by the ENPE Media GmbH, a German marketing and event agency located in Cologne, which focuses on conception, realization and supervision of events and marketing campaigns in eSports.

On this blog we cover marketing-relevant content within the eSports market. Additionally we introduce newcomers to the potentials, structures, risks and features of the eSports market.

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