Esports experts and their 2021 forecasts - Esports Bar Blog

As Esports BAR is scheduled for a return to Cannes in 2021, we invite leading competitive-gaming experts worldwide to predict the trends and developments they expect this year.

During an erratic 2020, it seemed the pandemic-hit global economy was in danger of imploding. There are now glimpses of a genuine revival as investors and stock exchanges stay steady and anti-Covid vaccines are launched.

Moreover, esports as an entertainment sector confirmed its resilience. It defied the enforced Covid quarantines and shifted businesses from brick-and-mortar venues to the internet and, during the process, introduced mainstream consumers to esports as online entertainment.

As 2021 gets into its stride, our forecasters see growth, advances and expansions in a variety of esports areas. These range from mobile esports, esports audiences, non-endemic brand partnerships and fan monetisation to esports betting, virtual events, and cloud-based production.

Below is a roll call of Esports decision makers, from the Americas to Africa, giving us the lowdown of where they see competitive gaming heading in 2021.

 

Brian Zwerner, Founder of Beyond The Game Network – US

esports forecast brian zwernerWhat developments do you plan for your company this year?
In 2020, Beyond The Game Network made our first investment in an esports team, Fade2Karma. We are working with them on potential streaming shows featuring our team of former NFL football players. We are also exploring new opportunities in the esports space for 2021, including working with other teams, leagues and technology providers.

What are the growth areas you foresee in the esports sector this year?
The year 2020 saw a huge growth in the number of major non-endemic brands advertising in the esports sector. We think 2021 will be another year of growth as audiences become more diverse by geography, age and interests. Brands have seen success working with leagues, teams and individual streamers, and we expect more of this in 2021.

What did you see that was truly innovative in esports last year that you expect or hope will take off this year?
In 2020, gambling and fantasy sports related to esports competitions gained traction. This happened with the massive bookmakers like DraftKings, but also with emerging players like Esports One and ThriveFantasy. We expect this to continue to grow in 2021 with more viewers getting involved in gambling or fantasy games linked to their favourite esports competitions.

 

Kwesi Hayford, President at EsportsGhana; Founder of Kiddie Esports –Ghana

esports forecast kwesi hayfordWhat developments do you plan for your company this year?
We’re developing grassroots engagement with gamers to build a sustainable esports environment across Africa with all stakeholders. We are creating a credible database of players and gaming hubs (gaming-dedicated Internet cafés) so we will be in a better position to produce the needed developmental goals. After South Africa, I believe Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Djibouti, Kenya, Gambia, Guinea, Togo, DRC, Tanzania will see growth in gaming hubs, which are a pivot of change.

What are the growth areas you foresee in the esports sector this year?
Africa is the last frontier in the global esports development race. If you look at the strong youth-focused demographics, the adoption of esports will act as a catalyst for socio-economic growth of the continent. This year will see more league type of events (such as the Call of Duty League) here because of the brand proposition leagues provide compared to one-off tournaments. In Africa, online gaming will take off because of the improving internet connectivity and more Africans signing up to digital platforms for gaming.

Impact of covid 19 on the esports industry - white paper

What did you see that was truly innovative in esports last year that you expect or hope will take off this year?
Esports in broadcast TV media – the desire for esports content there is huge as seen in ventures like the Africa-wide PlayArena platform and others, which are building broadcast studios with gaming content as the main drive. Also, mobile esports will really take off this year in Africa where the mobile penetration, including 5G availability and tests, is growing, especially in Nigeria and South Africa.

 

Nicole Pike, Global Sector Head of Esports & Gaming at You Gov – US

esports forecast nicole pikeWhat developments do you plan for your company this year?
We are launching a new product for YouGov Esports & Gaming called Global Fan Profiles, which will allow deep profiling and global comparisons of different segments of the esports audience. We are also rapidly expanding our syndicated profiling and brand-tracking data globally as it relates to all things gaming. I’m excited to significantly increase the data available in the marketplace.

What are the growth areas you foresee in the esports sector this year?
I expect to see significant growth in the collegiate esports scene this year, especially from a structural perspective, with more formalised programmes developing. I also anticipate we’ll see lots of developments from an industry perspective on enabling betting on esports though, personally, I expect consumer/fan adoption to grow at a slower rate. Finally, I think we’ll see more esports permeating other forms of entertainment content, including TV content, movies, and music collaborations.

What did you see that was truly innovative in esports last year that you expect or hope will take off this year?
I loved seeing esports teams start to explore alternate forms of monetisation in the second half of 2020. My hope is that their experimentation will lead to some successful viable options for them to generate supplemental revenue moving forward. Knowing what fans like versus what they’re willing to pay for can be a hard nut to crack, especially among an audience that has engaged with esports at no cost for a very long time. There is fan passion that can be tapped into in valuable ways, and I’m hopeful team organisations will figure out what those are this year to diversify their revenue streams.

 

Pablo Monti, Esports Manager at Latam Media Group (LMG) – Argentina

What developments do you plan for your company this year?
We strongly believe 2021 is the year in which Latin American esports will explode and we are already on it. We expect brands to fully enter the ecosystem and competitions and teams to establish themselves as serious and well-organised companies. The pandemic taught us esports can reach places no other entertainment business can.

What are the growth areas that you foresee in the esports sector this year?
We expect more and more non-endemic brands to join esports. The pandemic helped to increase esports awareness and there is much less evangelisation to make. We have more organised clubs and tournaments and traditional media is getting more involved. Brands will continue to join.

What did you see that was truly innovative in esports last year that you expect or hope will take off this year?
I believe 2020 showed the world a way to generate content, not only for fans but also for brands. The content-generation business model that esports organisations have been carrying during the last years is a role model for other industries to emulate. Brands understand this and will trust esports more in terms of content generation.

 

Philippe Laurent, CEO of easylive.io – France

esports forecast philippe laurentWhat developments do you plan for your company this year?
Covid has changed and accelerated how we use cloud-production services and easylive.io will commit to deliver the best one-stop-shop for esports producers.

What are the growth areas you foresee in the esports sector this year?
Fan engagement will be a big one with virtual events as venues will remain shut down worldwide.

What did you see that was truly innovative in esports last year that you expect or hope will take off this year?
The FanWall experience that we developed is a truly innovative fan-engagement effort and we foresee a big growth on it. Allowing companies and sports/esports leagues to stay in touch with their fans was crucial for us. Giving the fans the possibility to react in real time and to continue to be part of the show, even if they stay at home, was our main challenge and we took it up. Now we want to go even further in the interactivity that the FanWall experience can offer.

 

Robb Chiarini, Chief Operating Officer at Gamers.Vote – US

esports forecast robb chiarini

What are the growth areas you foresee in the esports sector this year?

One of the largest growth areas is that of mobile esports. While many might argue what “esports” is and what is “real” (PC, for instance), mobile esports cannot be underestimated. The accessibility, reach and the next generation of players will make this the largest platform for esports in the foreseeable future.

What did you see that was truly innovative in esports last year that you expect or hope will take off this year?
Last year, amid the pandemic, I’d offer that the best innovations were around production capabilities for the at-home production teams and talent.
Traditionally, for online esports, you have teams and players either in a single location such as a team house or in multiple residences and a production studio with all of the broadcast gear, staff and talent like the analysts and commentators. During most of the year (and still in many places), most or all of these folks were in their own homes. We now had to connect multiple one-to-many locations and content for the production – which is far harder than you think. The players, talent, observers and production people in multiple places had to be connected in a seamless way to allow video and audio to be synchronised like never before. And then, that content had to be provided to various talent so they could real-time commentate on the matches, while the graphics and other visuals had to be overlaid and broadcast out to the viewing audience.

 

Among our forecasters, optimism prevails for esports and the related business in 2021. It is more than enough to instil confidence in sponsors and other stakeholders in the ecosystem.

With esports entertainment expansion set to include Riot Games’ Valorant tournaments and its mobile title Wild Rift, and EA Sports’ FIFA 21 Global Series growing the number of eligible countries that can participate in the tournament, fans will not be disappointed.

And with Esports Entertainment Group completing its acquisition of Esports Gaming League, Australian payment firm SQID Technologies buying organisation ICON Esports, while Canada’s GameSquare Esports recently nabbed new cash injection, it seems investors have started the year confident too.

About Author

Juliana Koranteng is the founder/editor-in-chief of MediaTainment Finance (MTF) and TechMutiny, the business journals that cover investments in international media, entertainment and creative sectors, and the impact of related digital technologies.

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