Sport of the Future is Here
When I was a pre-teen kid, some 20 years ago, I remember watching movies that would show the world of future. I very much remember the scene from Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, a movie set in a distant future. In this movie, there is a scene where Chris Tucker’s character, radio host Ruby Rhod, is filming his live show while walking among the celebrities. By the way, when I think about it now, I can’t be the only one who sees some interesting similarities between that and today’s content on Snapchat, Periscope, Youtube Live, Facebook Live or some podcasts. Anyway, back to the point. As Ruby Rhod is walking amoung celebrities he runs into a famous athlete and says, while he is highfive-ing him:
„And here we have Roy ‘Bomb’ Baker–king of laserball.”
This was a very important moment that triggered my imagination. I couldn’t help to imagine how laserball would look like, or how sport in general would look like, in a distant future. I know there are many other movie scenes, or as the matter of fact whole movies, imagining the sports of the future much better than The Fifth Element, but 12-year-old me noticed this scene.
Fast forward 20 years, to about 10 days ago. I was listening to Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist Podcast and his guest was a South African actor, Sharlto Copley, star of District 9. He said something that made me remember the scene I told you about in the previous two paragraphs. While talking about his latest movie Hardcore Henry he first spoke about how the movie’s director Ilya Naishuller was talked into making this movie:
“Wouldn’t you want to see a first person action movie? Wouldn’t it be interesting to you as an experience? Ilya replied: “Actually it would, let’s try and make it.””
Sharlto Copley continues as he explains his motivations to make this original new movie:
“If I was in high school or college this is the kind of thing I would like to go with my buddies. You know, you are going to remember this experience. The film is going to assault you like a rollercoaster does. It’s an experience, something you are going to remember.”
“There is a generational aspect to the film, too. Which I was very cognisant going into this movie, in a sense that I love the franchise movies as much as the next guy, but a lot of the things that kids are watching nowadays are the things that were created before they were born. Their favorite movie is the same as their dad’s. This [Hardcore Henry] is something that probably will not be the same as your dad’s or your mum’s. This is very much something from this generation. And I was keen trying to be involved in it, trying to do something for this generation, for them to say “Hey, we also have something to say! Yes, we are going to see Star Wars, but this is more us.””
Mr. Copley says “This is very much something from this generation”. This made me think, is there a sport from this generation? Is there a sport that 90’s me would imagine as a sport of the future?
Dota 2 Championships prize pool
Talking ‘bout My Generation
Football, basketball and other massive sports have been around for a long time. They have massive audience and they generate huge revenue. But every generation popularizes a new sport that catches on and keeps on living, even after that generation grows up and another generation takes its place.
In my opinion, sport that was popularized by my generation were the X Games. The X Games were founded in 1995 and soon enough they produced their own superstars like Tony Hawk and Travis Pastrana. Winter X Games soon followed. In their inaugural year, 1997, 38.000 spectators attended the Winter X Games four day event.
Soon enough, in 1998, snowboarding was included in the Nagano Winter Olympic games and by the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, snowboarding events became of the most interesting part of the games.
I had some trouble figuring out what would be a new sport for this generation. Casual browsing on Twitter accidently got me the answer.
On the 8th of August 2015, in Seattle, Washington a tournament was held, where the winning team earned more than $6,5M and the total prize pool was over $18M. It was The International 2015: Dota 2 Championships, an eSports tournament.
Of course, everybody surely asks whether eSport is actually a sport.
In January of 2015 Korean eSport Association (KeSPA) managed to achieve a title of 2nd-level Olympic sport by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC). The decision was reached during a conference in Seoul, on the 27th of January 2015.
ESports are now officially a recognized sport in the Olympic category and they are in the same level as chess, automobile racing and polo.
But the gamers themselves see a problem with eSports inclusion in the Olympic games. According to them, the Olympic games should keep the spirit of physical excellence, which eSports don’t provide. On top of that, eSports don’t have only one discipline and there are many eSports titles in the market. Therefore, inclusion of eSports to the Olympic Games would be tricky, but separate eOlympic Games would solve these probems.
What is key, if the debate whether eSports are actually deserving to be called sports still exists, it won’t for long. Olympic Committee says eSports are a part of their family, so this is, without a doubt – a sport.
All Work All Play
Let’s Talk Numbers
Patrick Creadon filmed a documentary „All Work All Play“ which shows massive eSports tournaments.
The 2015 Newzoo Global eSports Market Report claimed that annual revenue of eSports in 2014 was $194M. Their report also predicted that in 2017 eSports annual revenue would reach $465M.
That prediction was corrected in the 2016 Newzoo Global eSports Market Report. It predicts that the eSports annual revenue in 2016 will already be $463M, just $2M shy of their prediction for 2017 from 2015 Newzoo Global eSports Market Report. New report now predicts that the eSports annual revenue will reach $1,1B in 2019.
According to Newzoo, North America will strengthen its leading role regarding expected eSports revenue in 2016, with predicted $175M generated through event tickets, sponsorships, merchandise, online advertising and media rights. A big part of this revenue will go straight back to the game publishers. At this moment, game publishers are still losing money on eSports. This only proves how much they trust their still growing investments in this sport.
Peter Warman, Newzoo’s CEO adds:
“2016 will be pivotal for eSports. The initial buzz will settle down and the way forward on several key factors, such as regulations, content rights and involvement of traditional media, will become more clear. The collapse of MLG was a reminder that this market still has a long road to maturity and we need to be realistic about the opportunities it provides. In that respect, it is in nobody’s interest that current market estimates differ so strongly. Luckily, when zooming in on the highest market estimates of more than $700 million, the difference is explainable by an in-depth look. This estimate only differs in the revenues generated in Asia (Korea in particular), and by taking betting revenues into account. At Newzoo, we believe betting on eSports should not be mixed into direct eSports revenues as the money does not flow into the eSports economy. Similarly, sports betting is not reported in sports market reports.”
Last year was significant for eSports because of the number of investors getting involved in eSports. More and more traditional media companies realized the value and perspective eSports offer and got involved. Therefore, according to Newzoo, in 2016 the focus will be on media coverage rights for eSports, which will produce even more revenue.
Newzoo also predicts that 2016 will be key for mobile games, especially in Asia, where Intel and Chinese social media giant Tencent joined forces in attemnt to host mobile game eSports tournaments.
In 2015 there were 112 major eSports tournaments that generated $20.6M in ticket revenues and the total price money for all eSports events in 2015 reached more than $61M. 70% grow compared to 2014.
% grow in prize money from 2014 to 2015
eSport audience size in 2015 – 226,000,000
% annual revenue year-to-year growth rate in 2015
% growth in online advertising revenue
At the moment eSports are experiencing a massive boom in Asia, North America and Europe. Rest of the world is, at the moment, experiencing issues due to high cost of broadband Internet. Without high speed
Internet connection online gaming experiences lag, the most hated word for every online gamer.
But Internet infrastructure is ever improving worldwide.
Amazon.com saw the opportunity in eSports market and decided to be a bigger part of it, so they launched its subsidiary – Twitch.tv.
Twitch.tv is a live-streaming video platform that broadcasts videogames competitions, that was launched to help the development of eSports. In 2015, Twitch.tv reported that it had hosted more than 1.5 million broadcasters and received 100 million visitors per month.
Ahmed Hijazi, founder of afkg.com, gaming community platform that focuses on eSports events in MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), speaks about Twitch.tv and eSports in general:
“The introduction of Twitch.tv in 2011 was the game changer on a global level. Twitch allows you to broadcast and stream live games and events to millions of viewers, while also providing you with a platform to monetize on.”
Hijazi also shared that Starcraft 2, League of Legends, Dota 2, CS: GO and Hearthstone are the most popular titles in a fast growing MENA region.
Michal Blicharz, one of the eSports big guys, Managing Director of Pro Gaming Electronic Sports League, talks about the future of eSports:
“eSports are not going anywhere. They are only getting more popular. It’s ridiculous to think that people will be playing the same turn-of-the-century computer games or using old-timey equipment 50 years from now. We don’t even know what kind of controller [the next major eSports title is] going to use. Is it going to be motion sensoring, tracking your eyeballs or hand movements?”
George Woo, the event marketing manager at the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship sees the eSports future the same way:
“A basketball is a basketball, but eSports are really dependent on the game title. I can’t tell you which game is going to be the game in the next five years.”
This gives the eSports a new dimesion of excitement, that no other sport has.
Among many other things, that might have been a motivation for the UK Government when they decided to back an international eSports tournament, that is already being called the eSports Olympics, as proposed by the gamers over a year ago.
The tournament will take place this year in Rio de Janeiro, during the Olympic Games. Canada, USA and Brazil already agreed to participate.
As in Olympic Games, medals will be awarded and there will be no cash prizes.
Every country will be presented by a „squad“ (eSports team) constructed from male and female players over 18, that will compete in individual and team games.
So, it is clear, eSports are going forward at extremely high pace. Their growth seems to be even faster than experts like Newzoo can predict.
Adopt Or Lose
When Microsoft bought Nokia in September 2013 for $7,17B Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop said:
“We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost.”
This might be true, they didn’t do anything wrong, but they were wrong as Ziyad Jawabra, Freelance Trainer, explained in his linkedin blogpost:
“They missed out on learning, they missed out on changing, and thus they lost the opportunity at hand to make it big. Not only did they miss the opportunity to earn big money, they lost their chance of survival.
Those who refuse to learn and improve, will definitely one day become redundant and not relevant to the industry. They will learn the lesson in a hard and expensive way.”
The new kids are coming fast and what in the 90s seemed like the future is already here. Don’t tell us we didn’t warn you!
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