The Esports Fanbase is Growing Quickly: What This Means for the Industry

September 14, 2018

Last month there was a mobile game that dominated all others in hours played – and it wasn’t Fortnite. It was the years-old game Clash of Clans. In fact, another years-old game, Candy Crush, also beat Fortnite. Now, to be fair, during the three-month period analyzed (May through July of 2018) Fortnite wasn’t even available for Android, and it still managed to come in fourth while only being on iOS devices. So, Fortnite’s place on this list will likely improve, but Clash of Clans’ and Candy Crush’s showing is illuminating.

Photo Credit: N3

For example, Candy Crush Saga was played for 3.31 billion hours, it earns its developer, King, nearly $4 million a day, and it enjoyed its most profitable 12-month period ever between August 2017 to July 2018. The game is over four years old, and it made almost a billion dollars over that time period!

With those sorts of numbers, it’s really not surprising that over the summer of 2018 CBS aired Candy Crush the TV show. Hosted by Mario Lopez, it featured Candy Crush on a series of giant monitors that stretched as high as the average rock-climbing wall. Teams of players were hoisted up and down trying to complete the match-three objective of Candy Crush.

It was the CBS-ification of esports. Esports lite.

It was a marvelous disaster.

I don’t mean that as cruel as it reads. Executives at CBS and King all saw the same trends that we did. Esports is on the rise; people clearly love Candy Crush. It was worth a shot.

Unfortunately, the show misfired nearly across the board. The joy of watching esports isn’t seeing a tricked-up version of the game you like. It’s the joy of seeing a game you like played exceptionally well. It’s listening to the humor and knowledge of a streamer.

Candy Crush the TV show is analogous to the concerns that many non-endemic brands have about entering the esports industry. It can be confusing and hard to understand and sometimes the other kids are mean to you.

That’s why it is essential to do your homework – the esports industry is constantly evolving. For instance, 84 percent of esports fans have only been invested in the sport for the past three years, and 29 percent have only been fans for the past year.

This really isn’t a surprise; in fact, it would be a real problem if new fans weren’t coming to this burgeoning industry. It’s highly likely that these additions will continue for several years.

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Still, what these new entrants mean is that the demographics of esports fans will be in flux for the next few years.

This is a great opportunity. New fans mean a broader and more diverse audience. This makes it an ideal time for non-endemics to find their niche in the esports industry. So, how do you do that?

Well, first it means redefining what is typically thought of as an esports fan. In fact, it means getting rid of the term “esports fan” altogether, at least insofar in believing that an esports fan is any sort of homogeneous group.

Just as the marketing geared toward a tennis fan differs from that aimed at football fans, so should the marketing and sponsorships around different esports.

This pivots to the second point: finding your target audience. Depending on the report you read, the number of esports fans who are female varies from around 30 percent to just under 50 percent. So, if your target demographic is predominately female, you may want to think about sponsoring a real-time strategy game as the majority of female esports fans say that they prefer to watch this game genre. Also, there are a number of female-only teams and tournaments and festivals directed toward a female audience, like the GIRLGAMER festival that supports and celebrates women’s inclusion in competitive gaming and esports.

“In the past two years, we have started seeing an increase in engagement from the female  gaming audience. The reason we believe this trend is occurring is from the quality of female gamers out there creating great content through Twitch, YouTube and other social platforms,” Ben Malka, the Community Manager for HyperX, said to Esports Insider.

Photo Credit: The Esports Observer

Currently, there aren’t many co-ed teams. The push for that change may, in fact, need to come from sponsors.

For male audiences, you can’t go wrong with first-person shooters, since over 60 percent say that is their genre of choice. Of course, a lot of this research was done before battle royale games like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battle Grounds.

Which leads to the third point: flexibility. You have to know your comfort level. There are some sponsorship opportunities that are safe bets. For example, the NBA2K League and the Overwatch league are in for the long haul. These and similar leagues are going to be around for a while. Think of these as long-term investments.

Other esports may burn bright and then flame out when the next big thing comes along. Half of the top 10 esports games in 2017 by tournament prize money did not exist just four years ago. So, some games are short-term bets where it pays to have some flexibility built into your plan. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity, but you also don’t want to be saddled to a game that has fallen out of favor.

However, just uncovering a long-term opportunity is not enough. What are your opportunities across the entire gamut of esports? For example, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has hundreds of annual tournaments associated with the game. So, simply discovering that your audience is Counter-Strike fans is clearly not enough. You need to discover the tournaments that fit your needs.

Photo Credit: Mashable

And it doesn’t stop there. Streaming services, like Twitch, provide an excellent way to reach your intended audience. But which streamers are right for you, athletes or just fans who play and commentate? Did you know that streaming personalities frequently host more viewers than pro esports athletes? Where will your investment – tournaments, teams, players, streamers, etc. – make the biggest splash?

The audience for esports is continually, steadily growing, which is an opportunity, because the link between esports’ consumers and brands can be very strong. However, it must be nurtured.

This is where eGency Global can help. Our team has over 15 years of experience as a leader in producing live esports and gaming events and interactive brand activations, including Riot Games’ Riftwalk Road Show, Leagues of Legends World Championship Finals, TwitchCon, and many more. Nearly every major game developer and hardware partner in esports has relied on us. We also specialize in sponsorships, consumer activations, and communications.

Esports is our specialty. Whether putting together an entire esports event, helping brands break into the space through sponsorships and advertising or ensuring that personalities and teams grow their brand, we are your strategic advisor in this burgeoning, thrilling arena.

If you would like help discovering your ideal esports audience, or to learn more about your opportunities for sponsoring an esports tournament, team, venue, streamer, and/or all of the above, give eGency Global a call at 972-323-6354. Our years of experience can help guide you through the occasionally imposing, yet potentially highly lucrative, esports landscape.