A complete guide by the video games industry
Esports are revolutionising the way consumers watch, follow, and engage with video games.
They are an important part of the video games industry. Led by some of the most prominent video game companies in the world, the competitions of the most popular titles are held in world-class arenas, watched by millions, and backed by global brands.
Everyone wants to be part of it; however, new entrants should be aware that esports are still in their early stages in most parts of the world.
So here you have it – a guide that outlines the current state of esports, including their impacts on economic growth, demographics, job creation, educational and social opportunities, and the often-overlooked nature of video games as creative works, as well as the copyright and intellectual property rights protection that they enjoy.
What you’ll learn:
What are esports?
Esports, also known as competitive gaming, are leagues, tournaments, or similar competitions where individuals or teams play video games, typically for spectators, for the purpose of entertainment, prizes, or money.
They are part of the video game industry and sometimes referred to as “competitive gaming”, “organised play”, “egaming” or “pro gaming”.
When talking about esports, the image of stadiums packed with fans cheering international stars easily comes to mind. But that does not provide the full picture. Esports can be played at a professional or amateur level, at international or local events, in person in a venue or at a studio, or purely online from home or anywhere with an Internet connection.
In most cases, esports involve the creation and distribution of video content, mostly through live streaming or broadcast. This video content can be home-made by the players themselves from their own homes or be part of a super production multicast on a par with any world-class entertainment event … or anything in between!
Esports do not have a single nature. Just as people do not compete in “sport” but rather in tennis, football, or athletics, video game players compete in the Overwatch League, the League of Legends European Championship, the Rainbow Six Spain Nationals, or any number of other professional or amateur tournaments organised across the globe.
Who forms the esports sector?
Esports competitions are the result of the collective effort of five different types of actor, all of them essential to develop a fully formed ecosystem:
Publishers are companies that finance the development, marketing, and manufacture of video games, and are responsible for bringing those video games to market through their arrangements with distributors, retailers, and platforms.
Publishers own the intellectual and industrial property rights to video games and establish their essential qualities – features, design, value proposition, etc. The “DNA” of a video game and IP rights have a huge impact on enabling and shaping esports competitions. Publishers are both central and vital to the esports ecosystem.
2. Tournament organisers
Tournament organisers design and produce video game competitions, amateur or professional, and they do so in line with the terms and conditions set by the publisher for each video game, having a contract or having obtained from the publishers any relevant licenses or authorisations required to organise or broadcast each competition.
Esports teams are companies (and occassionally associations) that employ players to participate in competitions on their behalf. Many of these organisations have rosters that play different games: most esports teams leverage their brand and structure in a wide array of different titles, as opposed to being exclusively tied to a single game or league.
4. Professional and amateur players
Players encompass, at the highest level, high-paid professionals hired by teams to compete in world stage tournaments and leagues, through to players playing at any level from grassroots events to top-level national or international competitions.
5. Fans and communities
What is the impact of esports?
The esports economy is audience driven. According to games and esports analytics firm Newzoo, the total number of esports enthusiasts in 2021 was 205.4 million worldwide and is expected to grow over the next two years to 285.7 million by 2024, while the total audience is 435.9 million and is expected to reach 577.2 million in 2024. the composition of the fanbase of different games can vary considerably, at an aggregated level, esports fans skew male and adult, with 78% aged over 21 and 62% male. The female audience is increasing year over year and reached 38% in 2020.
Getting access to the Millennial/Generation Z demographic is the main reason brands enter esports: young adults have proven difficult to reach via TV or other traditional media, earning the monikers “cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers”.
This boom means esports-related investment is also growing. Esports are no longer an exotic venture in a niche sector, but a legitimate area of interest for all types of investors, from angel investors and family offices to venture capital companies.
The appeal of investing in esports comes from three main sources: strong growth, the core audience of millennials and centennials and diverse business models.
How can esports support territories and people?
Opportunities for territories
Esports are set to be one of the sectors with the greatest expansion opportunities in entertainment in the upcoming years. In their relatively short history, esports have proven to be a powerful transformative force for some territories. With the continued growth of esports across the world, some governments have understood the potential of the sector for the development of their territories.
These plans usually focus on building sustainable ecosystems, developing national talent, creating opportunities for entrepreneurship, employment, and commerce and, in general, establishing a vision for the sector in the mid-term.
To make the most of their huge potential, it is important to understand the different opportunities they open up in fields like the economy and job creation, education, and local and national development.
Opportunities for social and educational inclusion
Today, digital skills are as vital as literacy and numeracy. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the existing skills gap. Video games enable players to immerse themselves in rich imaginative worlds, pose intellectual challenges such as devising strategies and plans while interpreting information from both verbal and visual media. Esports can help people develop digital competencies and skills. They can also be used as a tool for social and educational inclusion. Here’s how:
- Video games are already established in classrooms: Teachers who have used games have observed a significant improvement in several key skills such as problem-solving and analytical, intellectual, and spatiotemporal skills, as well as an increase in creativity, collaboration, initiative, attention, and communication. The presence of esports has also increased in these three areas– scholastic and collegiate/competitions, connected learning, and social inclusion.
- Esports are inclusive and accessible: Because of the range of games available, as well as the comparatively low-entry barriers in terms of access and equipment, esports have the potential to be more inclusive and accessible than other competitive endeavours.
A Guide by
ISFE Esports, a division of ISFE, represents Europe’s leading esports stakeholders, including video games companies, tournament organisers, broadcasters and national trade associations. ISFE Esports’ mission is to strategically align esports policy across Europe, to coordinate and articulate the voice of the sector, to share best practice and to raise awareness of esports and of the opportunities they offer.
We wouldn’t have been able to create this guide without the help of our colleagues from across the globe.
The Entertainment Software Association (USA), the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (Australia and New Zealand), and ISFE’s own national trade association members in 15 European countries are the global voices and advocates for the video game industry, of which esports are an important part.