If you’re a millennial like myself, chances are that you’ve been in touch with videogames before. You probably also know about a few classic titles like Doom, Tetris or Crash Bandicoot for example. But marketing experts and brands really need to start taking eSports seriously – the biggest events draw millions of people, and the prize pools are immense, with the largest tournaments handing out more than $20 million in prizes.
Gaming is becoming a serious sport with all the bells and whistles that every other competitive sport has, like basketball or curling. Competitive gaming is shaping up to be the next great thing, and we really think that you should take a look at it as a way of both promoting your brand as well as earning revenue. Big brands such as Red Bull and Coke are already jumped on the eSports wagon, so what are you waiting for?
Businesses of all sizes can really get a lot of benefits when it comes to their involvement in eSports, and most marketing experts need to get acquainted with the idea of electronic sports and start viewing them as an extremely great way to get both great brand recognition and to be put on the market as a brand that is following the newest trends, and we all want to set trends now do we?
But what are these eSports and what’s the fuss all about?
Well, to start diving into the world of eSports, we need to first get acquainted with the terms and the distinct characteristics of the sport. You see, like ball sports or track and field, eSports isn’t a single game or a single mode. It’s a wide variety of games and different ways you can compete in them. Think of eSports like regular sports, but on the computer.
Just like you have basketball and football, you have FPS and MOBA. Just like you have Nike and Adidas, you have Razer and Corsair, for example.
1. What Are eSports?
Shortened from Electronic Sports, eSports are a form of competition where players use electronic systems such as computers or game consoles to play videogames against one another in a wide variety of titles, modes, and genres. The most popular consoles used are the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Essentially, the term eSports means competitive videogames.
A lot of games can be considered popular online, but not all games are eSports titles.
This is pretty confusing at first, but imagine it like this: you can have a lot of hobbies, but only some of them can be sports. Just like that, there’s a ton of genres of games, but only a handful of games are played at the top tiers.
Not just any game can be called an eSport title. To be called that, a game needs to fulfill a certain number of prerequisites that are tied to the player base, gameplay, and similar features.
- The game needs to be competitive, and you must be able to win or lose a round or a match. Any games that don’t emphasize competing, like Minecraft or Ark: Survival Reloaded can’t be eSports titles.
- The game needs to have a large player base. It’s impossible for something to become a sport unless there’s a lot of people playing it and watching it, right?
- The third thing is proper funding. All big eSports titles both bring a lot of money, but also cost a lot. Every company needs to pay for casters, technicians, and crew for tournaments, venues and prize pools.
2. Twitch And YouTube Gaming
The world’s leading game streaming platform, where you can access all of the latest eSports events, as well as streams from players themselves. Streams are hosted by real people, like you and me, and even pro players from their own homes, while professional venues and settings are used to make tournaments real-life sporting events that are then streamed or televised just like the Superbowl is.
It’s a bit like TV for gamers, except it’s a completely free online service that lets you be the host of your own show. Neat, huh?
Twitch had more than 2 million monthly broadcasters in 2015., with more than 2 million people tuning in at the same time to watch both the ESL one: Cologne 2015 and the League of Legends NA LCS Finals. Twitch also had more than 45 million unique viewers per month in 2014.
YouTube Gaming focuses more on curated and edited video content, in contrast to Twitch’s streaming services. Videos on YouTube Gaming range from the so-called let’s play videos of people playing through a certain game to walkthroughs and advice from famous gaming YouTubers.
Twitch and YouTube Gaming are gaining ground extremely fast because of the sheer popularity of videogames worldwide. The ability to host streams allows anyone who thinks that they’ve got something to show the world of gaming to do so and see what the community thinks of it. To be a great streamer, you need to combine personality with skill, and the best streamers are chosen by the public itself. The best streamers, of course, have the largest number of people watching their streams, but there’s nothing stopping you from starting your own stream!
Twitch and YouTube Gaming are also extremely important because it’s hard to find eSports on regular television, and even if they were available widely there’s a chance that the audiences would still choose these online platforms instead. This is because gamers are spending time on their computers anyway, and the process of watching streams comes more natural than turning on the TV and finding a channel.
Still, the trends are shifting, with ESPN notably televising large eSports events, like the Heroes of the Dorm, a college tournament in the popular eSports title Heroes of the Storm. ESL, the world’s leading eSports organization has recently announced the world’s first 24/7 eSports TV channel called simply: esportsTV.
3. Games: FPS
First Person Shooter, a genre of games where your main goal is eliminating the enemy team. The games that pioneered this approach are most notably the Wolfenstein 3D and Doom games. The idea behind FPS games is to make you feel like you’re in the head of your character, thus the name First Person Shooter comes from. The most popular eSports FPS titles today are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, the Call of Duty series and others.
One can argue that going around and shooting other people is a violent hobby, but Counter-Strike is quite more than shooting and violence. Actually, the game is more about tactics, thinking ahead and teamwork. There’s a counter for everything, and if an opposing player uses a sniper rifle, for example, you can simply blind him with a flash grenade to turn the tables on him.
The feeling of outsmarting your opponents by making a play they didn’t expect can really connect to a lot of fans of “regular” sports, considering that surprise moves have amazed audiences for years. A quick sniper shot or a well-placed smokescreen can turn the tide of a game, and that’s what’s so fun about FPS games.
4. Games: MOBA’s – The World’s Most Popular Games
Massive Online Battle Arena, a type of game that is derived from a custom map for the game Warcraft 3 called Defense of the Ancients. Similar to classic strategy games like Warcraft, the game lets you look at the map from the bird’s eye perspective. Contrary to Warcraft, you only control one character, or hero.
With the help of your teammates and computer-controlled minions, your goal is to defeat the enemy team. There are, of course, numerous tactics and strategies, positions and things to understand, but a MOBA is perhaps best described as a combination of a real-time strategy game like Warcraft and an RPG game like Diablo. The most famous MOBA’s today are League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Smite.
Some MOBA’s are notorious for their steep learning curves, like DOTA 2, but most of them are fairly simple to learn, but difficult to master. You fight aside your teammates and computer-controlled AI minions who fight other minions. The basic principle is that you need to help these minions of yours to reach the enemy base, and you can earn experience points by eliminating enemy minions and heroes.
These games are the most popular in the world of eSports right now, with League of Legends being perhaps the most famous game in the world. Combining teamwork and strategy with an unique approach, and a hero that grows in power the better you play, MOBA’s are an experience like no other. Just make sure that you have a good team first.
5. Microtransactios And Cosmetic Items
A way of monetization that allows you to pay money for cosmetic upgrades in games such as Counter Strike, that have no effect on gameplay but still look cool. The skin market is extremely developed, especially in CS: GO. People would pay hundreds of real-life dollars for skins for knives and guns they get with the game, but the customization is what’s important, especially on the top levels.
Microtransactions aren’t strictly tied to eSports titles, but the general rule in all eSports games is that the things you buy can’t affect gameplay in any way. In some games (like the now-defunct Battlefield Heroes or APB Reloaded) you can buy items that give you the edge, but those games are frowned upon in gaming circles, and aren’t eSports titles by any means.
You can compare this to shoe deals in the NBA. Every player wears the same kit, sure, but every player also has a shoe deal and their own custom-made sneaker. CS:GO pros also use custom skins, often with team logos, to distinguish themselves from other players. It’s a cosmetic thing that has no effect on performance, but it makes you feel just a bit better if you have better bling than other players in the game, doesn’t it?
6. ESL and WESA
ESL (Electronic Sports League) is the biggest eSports organization in the world, and their primary task is to organize tournaments and competitions in eSports titles like Starcraft and CS:GO. WESA (World eSports Asociation) is the governing body for eSports, tasked with ruling and regulating, like FIFA does for football.
ESL came to be in the early 2000’s, as the successor to the German gaming organization called the Deutsche Clanliga. In the early days, they rented out servers and published magazines, and now they’re perhaps the biggest organization in all of eSports.
There are five official ESL leagues today, and a host of championships and tournaments hosted by the organization. Perhaps the most famous ones are ESL ONE and the Intel Extreme Masters, or IEM, with IEM being the longest running global pro gaming tour in the world hosting tournaments in CS: GO, Starcraft 2 and League of Legends. The latest edition of IEM in Katowice gathered 60 players from 14 countries in CS: GO alone. The IEM series has also given away more than $5 million in prize money so far.
WESA is somewhat younger, starting its life just last year as an organization that will govern some more traditional rules in eSports, like transfer rules and disputes between teams and players. WESA aims to be the place where players can turn to if they feel wronged, but also to be the highest-level body in eSports.
7. Sponsors And Endorsements
Just like any other sport, eSports rely heavily on sponsors to keep the tournaments and leagues running. Most computer hardware and software brands are extremely invested in eSports, with some brands you’ve probably heard of like ASUS or Intel being accompanied by some lesser-known brands outside gaming, like Razer, Corsair or SteelSeries.
Yeah, there are brands that produce specifically gaming-oriented hardware, like keyboards, mice and other peripherals aimed at gamers.These companies sponsor professional gamers who use their products, and later market the products as used by professionals.
Well, that’s because it probably is. Most big names in “classic” sports like football and basketball have naming rights, sponsor athletes and develop custom products for them, and all of those things aren’t unknown in the world of eSports. Most players have personal sponsorships from gaming companies, and Intel is even sponsoring the ESL IEM tour as the naming rights holder.
A lot of pro gamers in CS: GO would choose to wear both the sponsor and their own headset during games, with the game’s actual sound going through earbuds, a big, over-ear headset to block out the commentators, and the sponsor’s headset to talk through. This is no different than players choosing to wear their sponsor’s brand of clothes to practices or press conferences or showing up in sponsor’s cars to practices.
8. The Players
The similarities between athletes that play basketball and football, and those who play games for a living aren’t that far off. Sure, you need to spend a lot of time in the gym if your job is to play basketball, but the practices and the time invested in the sport are pretty much the same.
Most eSports professionals play games for the entire day, with members of Team Liquid LoL team playing more than 50 hours per week. They all have practices with their teammates and try to memorize different tactics and strategies, just like “regular” athletes. One more thing, eSports teams also have coaches that try to steer their players in the right direction and teach them the tactics and strategies of the games they’re playing.
The biggest transfer in the history of competitive Counter-Strike was the recent transfer of Nikola NiKo Kovac to FaZe Clan for around $500,000.
9. Communication is key – just like any other sport
An individual player in the game of basketball needs to have enormous individual quality, but also a sense of teamwork, as well as a professional CS:GO player. Constant communication, knowing your teammates and being able to deliver in the so-called clutch moments are what sets apart world-class athletes from the rest of us, and that’s remarkably similar both in eSports and other sports.
The communication part of eSports is something extremely important, due to the fact that you are looking at the screen most of the time and can’t afford to turn your head away. That’s why eSports players rely on programs such as TeamSpeak or more recently, Discord, to be able to talk with each other during sessions.
These apps provide the players with features such as low latency, dedicated overlays in games and more aimed solely to maximize their performance in the heat of the moment.
10. The Matches
Since every eSports title is different, we’ll take CS: GO for example here. Most professional matches in CS: GO have a maximum of 15 regular rounds, with 3 overtime rounds available if needed. The rounds last for roughly two minutes, with the rules stating that the winning team is the one that either eliminates the opposition or fulfills their goals.
The goals in CS:GO are :
- For the terrorist side → plant the bomb, guard it until it explodes or eliminate the enemy team
- For the counter-terrorist side → find the bomb, defuse it if it’s planted, or eliminate the enemy
The maximum length of matches varies, but matches are rarely longer than 90 minutes, and the longest match in history of CS: GO lasted nearly three hours, so there’s a lot of room to maneuver, just like the NBA and the rules on overtimes.
These rules, as well as the entire set of other rules make competitive games as regulated as other sports. Each game has it’s own rules and specialties, but they are all regulated on all competitive levels, and extremely unforgiving for everyone who tries to manipulate them in any way.
So there you have it, we’ve covered some of the most important basics of eSports, to get you acquainted with the phenomenon taking the world by storm. In the next article in the series, we’ll discuss the possibilities for branding and marketing inside of eSports!
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