The Future of eSports
If we look at the top industries recording exponential growth, the front runner is undeniably the tech industry, which is currently on track to surpass $5 trillion by the end of this year. With no sign of slowing down, the next frontier for this economic powerhouse is undoubtedly the esports industry. Despite being in its relatively formative stages, worldwide revenue in the eSports market reach USD$776.4 million in 2018 alone and is project to reach USD$1.8 billion by 2022. It’s clear that gaming and esports are rapidly becoming key drivers of growth for the tech industry.
But what sparked the growth of esports and what is the future of the esports industry? This article will delve into the world of competitive gaming and the origin of esports so let’s dive in.
What are eSports?
Esports transformed video gaming into a worldwide spectator sport by tapping into an underutilised global market and international audience. At its core, eSports stands for electronic sport, meaning electronic games played competitively for spectators became a new source of sporting entertainment and oversaw the development of video games as professional competitive platforms.
With the rise of competitive video gaming came the growth of an international community of gamers and gaming enthusiasts who spectate their favourite teams. Games like Fortnite, League of legends, Counter-Strike, and Overwatch are some of the most popular eSport games to date, each boasting millions of spectators and a relatively untapped market.
Competitive events are now held globally where professional teams compete against each other to hold the title of regional or global champions. Whether spectators pay to view the competitive action in person or stream the tournaments live via popular streaming platforms like Twitch, the eSports community is becoming an international market worth paying attention to, with major tele broadcasters like Telemundo, TBS, and ESPN now broadcasting these popular video games live.
The Future of Competitive Gaming
As with all industries in their formative stage, competitive eSport games do fluctuate in popularity, however the industry itself and its growing spectatorship continue to affirm their significance as market forces. Leading games in the eSports industry like CS: GO or League of Legends continue to grow in popularity, while others are little more than one-shot wonders.
For instance, let’s take a look at one of the most seasonal eSport games: Fortnite. First released back in July of 2017, the arcade and vibrant game style quickly gained popularity amongst the younger generation. A significant contributing factor to the game’s popularity was its to play feature (unlike other popular battle royales like PUBG PC) and easy streaming capability. This translated almost immediately to worldwide popularity within the eSports community and it didn’t take long to establish the Fortnite World Cup, which spectators paid to view in person or stream via Twitch. Fast forward to 2021, Fortnite has seen its the lowest income since their release.
Does this mean that the eSports industry suffers when its major players take a hit? Quite the opposite. The success of these global gaming sensations depends on its player base which is informed by the preferences of the eSports community. With every new game, a new player base is established, including new professional gamers, sponsors, and spectatorship. The fall of one game sees the rise of another, and with it this new game benefits from the momentum and popularity of the existing eSports player base and subsumes these players into a larger, faster-growing community.
Similar to sports like football, the NBA, or even tennis, professional players train to ensure peak competitive performance. When they can no longer be at their maximum potential, whether due to age or industry, they often transition to coaching or commentating in the sporting industry. The fans don’t simply disappear because the original player does. Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, David Beckham are excellent examples of the timeless presence their sporting fame has garnered.
Just like the physical sports industry, pro players in the eSport genre are adopting similar professional career pathways. Look at popular mid laner of the TSM League of Legends team, Bjergsen, arguably one of the most respected eSport gamers in the US. When he retired from the professional gaming scene, he quickly became the coach of team solo mid, preserving and building upon his massive fan base while providing added momentum for new teams to leverage. This snow-balling growth effect of eSports’ player base and spectatorship is a clear indication that the professional gaming scene is not only destined to grow exponentially but explode in the years to come, accelerated by its growing digital accessibility on a global scale.
Introduction of AI in eSports Training
With constant technological innovation and advancement, the eSports industry continues to evolve to satisfy consumer demand. One of the answers to these ongoing technological shifts in the industry is artificial intelligence (AI).
With its growing popularity, the professional player base for eSports is increasing with each competitive season. As a result, top players, whether they are competing in professional tournaments or establishing themselves as notable eSports streamers, need to stay in best competitive shape.
Professional eSports players commonly train at least eight hours each day, both with their team and individually. The team training enables sharpened team performance and communication as they learn to complement each other’s play styles. On the other hand, individual training enhances their game knowledge, game mechanics and allows them to be at their maximum potential for every competitive appearance.
So what happens when players’ performance plateaus and “challenges” are no longer challenging? This is where AI comes in.
AI bots are rapidly becoming the most effective training tool in eSports. This allows users to play and experience a similar multiplayer style environment when they are unable to progress in a conventional online environment.
With advancements in Game AI development, bots are becoming more consistent in delivering multiplayer-style gameplay. These computer-controlled AI bots act and behave like their human player counterparts but with the addition of machine learning, they continue to evolve and become more human-like every day, offering a wide range of difficulty levels customisable to the player’s skill set.
Gaming AI software like Blitz or Mobalytics are great examples of AI that have been designed for the sole purpose of upskilling competitive players. From in-game tip and guides to comparisons with veteran pro eSports players, these AI are designed to help players win and master the meta of any eSports game.
As an industry that is extremely fast-paced by both design and necessity, even the expert coach can find it challenging to train their players to perfection and offer complete and concise feedback in eSports training. In games where every split-second decision counts, this humanly-restricted form of coaching is soon becoming irrelevant as AI technology is being created for top-end CPUs and future processors currently being built. These AI programs are designed to analyse every micro-movement of the player, offering quick, implementable and faultless feedback immediately, leading to improved gameplay and quicker progression on game skill development.
New Tech & eSports
As we established earlier, the latest technologies and innovations heavily influence the direction and future of eSports. Look at the latest smartphones, for instance, which, in combination with 5G technology, continue to make popular competitive gaming globally accessible to all demographics. Call of Duty and League of Legends have already made mobile versions of their game, and soon, other eSports games will have to follow suit to access further global audiences.
With the introduction of 5G, gamers will be able to practice their favourite game or shooting skills anytime anywhere, and when over 80 per cent of the global population owns a smartphone, that’s an unbelievable potential user base quite literally at your fingertips. The accessibility of eSports, driven by the accessibility of smartphones, will not only further the reach of the industry but also make room for new mobile game developers.
So what’s the next frontier after mobile gaming? Developing virtual worlds for both gaming and industrial applications, virtual reality is set to create a new ecosystem for competitive gaming, which is further complemented by its unrivalled immersive spectator mode. The global virtual reality gaming market is the fastest growing yet, projected to increase from USD$5 billion in 2021 to USD$12 billion by 2024. It’s not so far-fetched to imagine a new competitive gaming league where virtual reality will come to hold the same popularity as a LOL world championship. Who knows, LOL might even make the move to virtual reality themselves.
But one thing is for certain, professional games are looking towards a bright future, carried by the exponential growth of the esports industry. So hold on tight and enjoy this amazing journey into the future of eSports and competitive gaming.