The Rise of eSports
With the growth of virtual gaming, online casinos and mobile apps ever-present, another major player is also leaving its mark on Canada in a big way. eSports is a rapidly growing industry, both locally and globally, with an estimated global economy of $696 million and 41.3% year on year growth according to the Global eSports Market Report 2017.
Currently, the international eSports market is showing steady growth, and the grassroots gaming communities in major Canadian cities like Montreal and Vancouver are ensuring the industry’s growth on home soil. The US remains the world’s largest eSports industry, but recent data shows that Canada’s numbers are not far behind. Console gaming has always been hugely popular in Canada, with state of the art consoles like Xbox and PlayStation leading the way. eSports manages to merge console and PC play, and it seems to appeal to gamers of all platform preferences, adding to its popularity.
The Canadian League of Gamers kicked into the eSports scene in Canada with the Northern Arena event at the 2015 Canadian Video Game Awards. Offering a massive $20,000 prize pool for players of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the major event in Toronto captured the nation’s attention, and the rest is history!
Carl Edwin Michel, the CEO of CLG, noted that his organisation was bringing eSports to Canada in a way that will be sure to nurture gaming talent and also present marketability to traditional media, while still keeping the ‘character of eSports’ intact.
Major Firms Taking Advantage Of eSports To Target Millennials
Two years later, it’s apparent that Canadians have taken notice, with the Northern Arena now offering a tenfold $200,000 prize pool across their events. Furthermore, the event has successfully capitalised on the growth of eSports in both Canada and the US, becoming a leader in the industry.
While there is still scepticism as to how long the growth of eSports will continue, the attendance of its Canadian events has been compared to that of major league sports. When Riot Games made the announcement that its North American League of Legends Championship Series Summer Finals would be held in Toronto in August this year, the event’s tickets at the Air Canada Centre were sold out in under 24 hours.
Research firm SuperData pins eSports’ total viewership in 2016 at over 216 million spectators. These figures, which are similar to those of cable television, are attracting plenty of attention from huge international firms like Amazon. eSports revenues in Canada grew around 25% last year alone, and globally the market is expected to jump from earning $85 million in 2014 to $1.2 billion, if not more, next year. This is a 94% compounded rate of growth, which is almost triple the projected figures from 2015 to 2016.
Canadian media platforms are also paying close attention to eSports, considering their massive pull with Millennials (75% of the global demographic for the industry is between 18 and 34 years old). Herein lies the future of eSports in Canada: companies are increasingly searching for ways to appeal to the younger generation, and competitive video gaming events may hold the key.
Canadian eSport’s Future Rooted In Brand Investments and Sponsorship
Canadian motion picture firm Cineplex has even invested a notable $15 million to acquire an eSports company and create their own gaming league that will play out in its Canadian theatres. The major gaming firm has set aside $10 million to acquire WorldGaming, which will give them the rights to its tournament and league platform for the competitive gaming community.
The remaining $5 million of the deal are being used to set up the new competitive gaming league, which will manage and operate large-scale future eSports tournaments at Cineplex theatres across Canada. The first eSports competitions at the theatres are set to kick off in October, and have already drawn the attention of some of the country’s most respected competitive gaming teams.
This move leaves no doubt that the industry’s potential business value is exceptional. Worldwide, Amazon purchased eSports streaming platform Twitch for just less that $1 billion back in 2014, and Swedish media firm Modern Times bought a majority stake in the world’s oldest eSports company, ESL, for $87 million a year later. Sponsorship from massive conglomerates like Google, Coca-Cola, Red Bull and Ford is also at an all-time high.
Brand investment globally is sitting at $517 million now, and is expected to double by 2020. And while the eSports industry may never overtake traditional sports markets, investors are continuing to plough millions of dollars into the future of the industry to ensure that Canada’s market only gets stronger from here on out.