Why eSports Is Just Getting Started In The U.S.
There’s a widespread perception that eSports has become big business, and that it’s joined the ranks of actual sports from a revenue and viewership standpoint. Sometimes compared to UFC in its relatively meteoric rise, eSports now reliably packs stadiums, enthralls streaming audiences, and produces exciting, engaging material. There is, however, still room to grow, and there are several reasons to believe that at least in the U.S. market, eSports is just getting started.
For starters, there’s the elephant in the room, which is VR gaming. Virtual reality has had more of a slow-but-sure rise than the overnight smash some thought was coming. It is, however, starting to carve out a major corner in gaming, and accordingly we know that it’s going to play a bigger and bigger role in eSports. Indeed, just last summer Oculus – still the biggest name in VR – announced that it would be bringing four eSports tournament finals to its new Oculus Connect device, indicating that VR-based games will have a place at the table. It’s difficult to put numbers to this idea just yet, but a significant, if potentially gradual influx of VR to eSports gaming is going to bring in a fresh wave of business.
Another point worth considering regarding the growth potential of the U.S. market is that eSports arenas are nowhere near as prevalent as they’re likely to become. Right now, while eSports can sell out stadiums as mentioned before, it’s still mostly an online streaming activity. What we’re starting to see in addition to these options though is the rise of specific, eSports-geared arenas, such as some that have popped up in Vegas and a few more around the world. These are exciting, new, and likely to generate enough business early to spawn further expansion and imitation. Essentially, it’s going to add a whole new wing to the budding eSports business, to the point that we could even see these arenas holding weekly contests for local fans. Sticking with the idea of fan engagement, there’s also the betting side of things to keep in mind. It can be more difficult to guess exactly how much of a financial impact this will have on actual eSports organizations, or the gamers themselves, but there’s no question that betting can bring money into the overarching idea of eSports. This is already happening, with the change being that the available sportsbook options in New Jersey are now providing a sort of betting blueprint that other states are beginning to follow as they slowly but surely legalize gambling. In other words, the U.S. is getting used to legal sports betting, which means that over the next few years – we assume – millions of new gamblers will become active. Many will likely make their way into eSports, effectively comprising a few aspect of the sport’s revenue.