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A whole new ballgame

The potential of esports in 2019

Michelle Mannering on esports in Australia in 2019 and opportunities for organisations in the TMT sector and beyond

The 2019 edition of TMT Predictions has forecasted the rapid growth trajectory of esports, especially in the US, and the potential for media companies, telcos and brands to get on board with this.

Acknowledging that esports may be a relatively new concept to many Deloitte clients (except maybe for those who are or have kids who are Fortnite obsessed!), we spoke to Michelle Mannering about what to look out for in Australian esports in 2019. Michelle was a nominee for Esports Personality of the Year at the Australian Games Awards in 2018. She also writes about esports and works with businesses who are looking into esports as an investment.

Michelle, our global prediction for esports is that the North American market will expand by 35%, driven by advertising, broadcast, licensing and franchise sales. Globally, the prediction is that growth will be slower due to the maturity of Asian leagues and uncertainty in China’s regulatory response. Are these global trends for growth something that we’re also experiencing in Australia, although probably from a smaller base?

Esports are definitely growing in a positive way in Australia. There are more events happening, bigger events and the sentiment around these events has been really positive. We’re also seeing esports appear at events outside the gaming scene, like the Australian Open event, and the AFL event in 2018.

What we are missing has been pathways for Australian esports players into the bigger global leagues. They just don’t have the support and resources that other countries do. This support can range from marketing and PR, to partnerships or media training. It also include access to health professionals, dietitians, physios, trainers. What people outside the scene don’t realise is the clear linkURL between the fitness and the health of the players and the results achieved. Bigger teams like Team Liquid have realised this and their results speak for themselves. But hopefully as the appeal of esports increases and non-endemic brands (brands without a direct connection to the community) realise the potential from supporting, this will improve.

Furthermore, the Australian scene is very light on talent due to our small player base. Our smaller geographic region means we have less players here than other countries around the world. Player bases are smaller, talent pools are smaller, and the top talent is very segmented from the rest of the player pool. Australian internet is partly to blame here, as we don’t have the speeds to compete with other players globally and are therefore limited to our smaller talent pool here.

More Australian companies and corporations are taking notice or playing an active role when it comes to esports. What is the value proposition of esports to them?

Non endemic brands are getting involved because with esports they are tapping in to an audience they have not had access to in the past. Take the Tennis Australia Fortnite event at the Australian Open as an example. From this engagement they opened tennis up beyond just tennis fans, captured a younger audience who might never have attended the Australian Open and found a use and an income generator for a space that would have been empty otherwise – the Margaret Court arena. Overall, esports allowed them to turn the AO from a tennis event into an entertainment event with a broader appeal. Access to a young audience, given the longevity, is a major value proposition. Think of all the adults you know who go to see Disney movies, because Disney hooked them in as kids. The same potential exists for esports.

What are some of the positive trends you are noticing?

It’s really positive and there is real excitement in the sector to see non-endemic brands coming on-board. We’re also seeing partnerships between celebrities and esports brands. US hip-hop star Post Malone partnered with gaming company HyperX. Ninja, the most followed streamer on Twitch with 13 million followers, commentated the super bowl last year, and Snoop Dogg wants to build his own console. Also exciting for Australia? 5G – In 2019 our internet feeds, gaming speeds, and streams will get a lot better.

For organisations interested in exploring esports partnerships or potential in 2019, what are your top tips?

For brands who are looking to partner:

  • Make sure the values of the esports team or game you are partnering with aligns to your values. There are lots of varieties so make sure to find something that is within your brand values and appeals to your audience
  • Reach out to people already in the space, who have already partnered successfully for advice. There are so many examples out there of companies doing it and being successful
  • Be patient. You can’t expect results instantly. It takes time to build your reputation, trust and brand awareness with the esports community.

For the TMT sector in particular:

  • There is opportunity in devising products that appeal directly to gamers and to the esports community. With the Note 9, Samsung has advertised directly to gamers. There are opportunities for others to do something similar – as long as the products can deliver.
  • For broadcast media, consider how you can integrate the elements that are most popular from esports – the personalities, the immersiveness, the engagement, on your own platforms. Bring streaming celebrities onto your mainstream shows. Sports fans have been talking for years about personalising the watching of sports e.g. being able to watch sports from the perspective of your favourite player. Tailored, immersive content, probably across a few different platforms, is what will appeal to esports fans.

For more information on esports trends for 2019, and other trends in the telco, tech and media space, check our TMT Predictions 2019. For questions on esports, please contact Leora Nevezie or Jaco Fouche.