Get ready to dive into the future that is 2022 for the international esports business.
Last year, the global competitive-gaming sector grew a whopping 14.5% to generate just over US$1bn, according to research group Newzoo.
Despite relying significantly on live competitive-gaming tournaments, esports successfully transitioned several live events online in 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic was damaging other live-entertainment businesses. More Newzoo insights indicate esports revenue could almost double to US$1.8bn this year. Although the pandemic could impact the actual 2022 figure, the fact remains esports continues to thrive.
Its income is small compared to the US$175.8bn video-games industry it relies on for its IP (intellectual properties). But that shows there is enormous room for growth.
Additionally, its digital-first infrastructure and enormous appeal to Gen Z and Millennial consumers mean it is constantly evolving. And its influence on how future generations will interact with media continually revolutionises.
Esports BAR’s 2022 predictions address key trends that confirm how that evolution and revolution will be affected by numerous factors, ranging from the metaverse to mainstream entertainment.
Gaming shoots for the metaverse universe
The metaverse forced its way into the esports sector’s consciousness last year when Dubit, the video-game studio, snapped up US$8m in investment funds to launch the Metaverse Gaming League (MGL).
In Dubit’s MGL, esports players and teams, in the shape of their avatars, will compete in a computer-simulated virtual universe called the metaverse. This is created with a combination of 3D tech, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and ultra high-speed Internet connectivity. It enables players to interact, socialise and immerse themselves in real time and in a scalable uninterrupted way as they would in physical real life.
The platform for MGL tournaments will be provided by Roblox, the online-gaming service that enables subscribers to create and play games with other subscribers and boasts 48.2 million daily active users. MGL business partners, like sponsors and media groups, will also be able to activate campaigns and content in this emerging computer-generated world.
While still embryonic, the metaverse reportedly has the potential to be a market worth between US$800bn and US$8 trillion. To progress, the metaverse needs to be reliable and safe for doing business and this will be resolved by the application of blockchain technology.
Blockchain’s decentralised format enables its users to verify the uniqueness and authenticity of digital creative works, invariably in the form of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) paid for with cryptocurrencies (digital money). In gaming, NFTs could be used to reward esports fans or players or as investment.
And Dubit’s move is not a one-off. High-profile esports organisations, including Denmark’s Astralis; UK-based Fnatic; TSM, Faze Clan and Andbox in the US; European group OG Esports; and Square Enix Holdings, the Japanese video-game entertainment conglomerate, are embracing the metaverse and all things crypto.
It seems esports is joining the decentralised vision underpinning the Internet’s emerging Web3 era (compared to today’s Web 2.0 era, which is dominated by the centralised Big Tech companies; and Web 1.0, the first-generation dot-com websites).
Winning esports-betting gamble
The year 2022 looks good for esports betting, as illustrated by recent company results for Esports Entertainment Group (EEG), the NASDAQ-listed international esports-betting conglomerate.
EEG looks set to fulfil its pledge to offer the most engaging esports-betting experiences for both gamers and traditional-sports bettors, as stated in an Esports BAR Blog interview.
The company is now projecting revenues of US$100m in the 2022 fiscal year.
Bear in mind it had an estimated capitalisation value of only US$50m when it began publicly trading shares in April 2020, as reported in the Esports BAR Blog.
The total esports-betting market, with a potential US$205bn value by 2027, will experience good fortune in 2022.
More US states and countries worldwide that had previously banned both traditional sports and esports betting are opening the sector. More esports-betting ventures like UK-registered Luckbox and Rivalry have floated on the stock exchange. Investment continues as London Stock Exchange-listed traditional-sports gambling giant Entain plc acquires leading US esports-betting group Unikrn.
Mobile esports is moving on up
Esports BAR established the rapid growth of international mobile esports in its recent exclusive White Paper called Mobile-First Esports: from Asia to the Rest of the World.
Expect that drive to pick up this year. Video-game publishing giant Take-Two Interactive Software, co-owner of the professional-esports league NBA 2K League, has agreed to pay a colossal US$12.7bn for Zynga, the NASDAQ-listed pioneering mobile-games creator. It is one of the biggest-ever gaming acquisitions to date.
Gamers’ access to 5G-compatible smartphones, which means the Internet speed is up to 10 times faster than today’s high-end 4G devices, is scheduled to shoot up, according to the GSMA, the global telecommunications trade body. A development that could overhaul the positive experience of competitive gamers.
No wonder some analysts are predicting that mobile esports could actually more than double the revenues expected from total esports in 2022.
More gifted girls in gaming
The small number of female esports players, especially at the professional level, remains a scandal in what should be one of the most inclusive entertainment sectors. But there are efforts to rectify this blot on the competitive-gaming landscape this year.
Tournament-organisation giant ESL has announced #GGForAll, a new all-women CS:GO (Counter Strike: Global Offensive) tournament circuit with a US$500,000 prize pool.
China’s Moonton Games, maker of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, has joined forces with US-based data-analytics specialist ONE Esports, to launch an all-female tournament in Southeast Asia.
Valorant, the new esports video-game title introduced by League of Legends creator Riot Games, has placed professional female players in the inclusive vision the company has for the game’s competitive potential.
Such positive news is needed to counter the negative truths about professional female esports players being paid far less than their male counterparts, or the fact that 80% of video-game characters are male.
Look out for a more competitive landscape in esports as a business this year. This will be highlighted as Faze Clan, the popular US-based esports and entertainment organisation, aims for an IPO early this year .
At a potential valuation of US$1bn, the stock-exchange listing could make the privately owned FaZe Clan the most valuable esports brand to date. That high value comes as a spate of mergers, acquisitions and fund-raising towards the end of 2021 proves esports’ appeal to investors remains high.
100 Thieves (an Esports BAR Game Shaker Awards winner) raised US$60m in December for a US$460m valuation. Other 2021 successful fund raisers include UK-based EXCEL and Fnatic.
Canadian esports-media group Enthusiast Gaming has agreed to pay US$45m for Outplayed, owner of esports data-analytics firm U.GG.
OpTic Gaming and Envy Gaming, two professional US esports organisations, have merged to create a tougher competitive entity for tournaments.
The US state of North Carolina has launched the US$5m-a-year Esports Industry Grant Fund to lure more esports companies to host their tournaments and other events inside the state.
Data is going for esports gold
An appreciation of how the collection of data and statistics will enable esports businesses to extract more innovation and original content from their work is expected to increase this year.
This was confirmed at the 2021 edition of the Esports BAR event in Cannes where Moritz Maurer, the CEO/founder of GRID Esports, demonstrated the way traditional-sports ventures specialising in data gathering and analysis had seen their capitalisation value soar into the billions of dollars.
Maurer argued that what physical-sports ventures have achieved should be easier for their counterparts in esports, where quality data is vital for tournaments, betting, live streaming, audience measurement and fan engagement, among other digital-first activities.
Moritz’s forward thinking has created demand for GRID, which raised US$10m in a Series A round of funding last year, as seen with the recent renewal of its partnership with Russia-based Epic Esports Events.
Data’s function as fuel that energises esports explains why NASDAQ Norway-listed Kambi Group is bolstering its esports-betting services by paying SKr270m (US$29.9m) for Stockholm-based esports-data company Abios.
Expect to see more esports action in Southeast Asia (SEA), Sub-Saharan Africa and the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) region.
- Southeast Asia
The SEA region is the source of most of today’s mobile-esports expansion, as established in the Esports BAR White Paper mentioned earlier. Smartphones are the computers of choice in this mobile-first territory, where competitive gamers have found it easier to access hand-held devices instead of desktop PCs and consoles.
While that trend is inspiring the global expansion of mobile esports, it is also the foundation of further advancement in the region itself.
- Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa, a territory that has seen the global explosion of its music, film and TV entertainment industries thanks to streaming technology, has been lagging in the gaming and esports spaces. But local esports entrepreneurs are doing something about it.
Their efforts are yielding results. A new report from Newzoo and Carry1st, the Africa-centric games developer, concludes Africa to be among the world’s fastest growing gaming markets, with the number of gamers soaring to 186 million last year from 77 million in 2015.
That could be the springboard for a thriving esports industry, thanks mostly to the region’s very young population. The number of esports enthusiasts in the 16 to 35 age groups in countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya far outstrips the global average, according to digital-market research group Borderless Access.
And, in case you missed it, competitive gaming is gaining a foothold in the Middle East and North Africa.
MENA’s biggest media and creative-zone hub twofour54 Abu Dhabi is adding esports companies to its TV and film clients following the recent deal with the Emirates Esports Association.
Galaxy Racer and Team Nigma, two of the region’s biggest esports organisations, have merged to create a powerhouse to compete on the global stage.
Meanwhile, Riot Games and Intel, joint organisers of the region’s Intel Arabian Cup competition, publicly pledged to continue backing esports in MENA.
Intellectual property’s value to esports
Video-games IP is the foundation of the esports sector and its importance to competitive-gaming’s sustainable future growth will increasingly be emphasised by publishers.
This was underlined late last year when the world’s leading video-games associations – Entertainment Software Association (USA), the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (Australia and New Zealand), and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe – published The Guide to Esports, to illustrate the critical significance of games IP to esports as an industry.
Understanding how IP will extend esports’ reach to mainstream audiences is examined in Esports and TV: Where the Future of Digital Entertainment Connects, the White Paper jointly produced by Esports BAR and MIPCOM, the world’s leading international TV content event.
The report explores how several hit TV shows are based on games IP and what traditional linear-TV broadcasters can learn from the way gamers and esports fans interact with live and streamed entertainment.
This could be influencing the decision by Japanese-Korean game studio The Nexon Co. to pay US$400m for US-based independent film-and-TV maker AGBO, the venture belonging to the producers/directors of Marvel Studios blockbuster hits like Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
And more in 2022
As we plan for the coming year, we should not forget issues that thrust esports into new discussion points, especially the importance of protecting the physical and mental Health and Wellbeing of the players and teams.
Additionally, all esports fans cannot wait for the return of live events. This will be a massive discussion point in 2022 as concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic and its recent variant Omicron remain with us globally.
With bated breath, we shall all be watching to see how big events try to bring back the in-person experience during the Big Events like the Intel Extreme Masters – Katowice in February; the Valorant Champions Tours; the League of Legends season; and the Overwatch League.
Conclusion: New brand partnerships
The year 2022 looks set to be an exciting one for esports in terms of innovation and revenue growth. Whether it is the metaverse, mobile delivery or mainstream audiences, competitive gaming continues to keep industry observers in suspense about what is coming next.
Esports BAR might even venture that, at a time when space tourism looks like becoming a reality, it will be an esports brand that joins the first marketers to buy media space on the moon.
And with Sony Group Corporation, a global entertainment and video-games powerhouse, launching its own electric cars, esports could be making its way into the future of in-car entertainment. Watch this space.