Category: Digital Video Games

The Rise of Esports, How Data Drives It, and What the Future Looks Like

Electronic sports, or esports is the evolution of online competitive gaming into spectator sports. It started off as a niche industry but over the last decade, it has become a major player in the sports and entertainment industry, and even become a part of mainstream culture. Viewers can watch video gamers compete against one another in a virtual environment just like how they’d watch a professional sports event. In 2021, the global esports market was valued at just over $1.08 billion, an almost 50 percent increase from the previous year. 

The first-ever esports competition took place at Stanford University in 1972. Five students competed in an “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics,” and the winner received a year’s subscription for Rolling Stone. Dota 2’s The International 2019 invited the top players in the world to a tournament with a crowdfunded prize pool of $34.3 million. Less than a year before that tournament, CNBC reported that the “League of Legends” World Championship finals in South Korea hit nearly 100 million unique viewers, eclipsing the previous year’s Super Bowl, one of the most popular sports championships which had just over 98 million viewers. 

esports arena
Esports arenas can get as jampacked as traditional sports stadiums these days.

Esports has only grown bigger with the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. With people being confined to their home and the usual sports tournaments not happening, they turned to virtual game tournaments increasingly for entertainment. Across European countries, 38 percent to 67 percent of esports consumers stated that they watched esports for the first time after COVID-19 related restrictions were imposed.

The potential to earn from gaming has become increasingly tantalising as there are several ways to do so. Most obvious is the prize money from tournaments, but esports athletes can also make millions of dollars from streaming their live gameplay, signing contracts with big organisations like TSM, 100 Thieves, Team Liquid, and the like, engaging on social media, and sponsorship deals with entities both within and outside the gaming sphere such as Redbull, Corsair, and AimLabs. Everyone can benefit from esports- the players, the audiences, and corporations. 

 

The esports ecosystem supports itself and thus thrives.

Several technology, analytics, and service platforms are also beneficiaries of this ecosystem as it continues to grow in leaps and bounds from increasingly substantial investor capital. The largest sponsorship deal to date was TSM receiving $210m over 10 years from crypto exchange FTX.

The Esports Industry: Who is Involved?

Esports involve several parties who make the ecosystem thrive. These include:

Players:
They develop their skills through extensive, competitive play. They train for quick reflexes and multi-tasking abilities, often for several hours a day. Those who rise to the professional level compete in tournaments all around the world against the best teams. They gain a fanbase for the teams and organizations they play for as well as themselves as they grow. Retired esports professionals may opt to stream themselves, coach esports teams, start their own team, work for publishers, and more. Some of the most skillful and consistent players often end up being the face of the game, such as Faker in League of Legends.

Faker- one of the most talented League of Legends players- makes a cameo in almost every video they release to hype up their annual championship.

Streamers:
Gamers who livestream themselves as they play video games are referred to as “streamers.” This is typically done in casual play but professional players also stream their ranked games or do analysis of their gameplay to educate and entertain their viewers. While streaming can be incredibly profitable, many streamers have to decide whether they want to stream for a living or try and play professionally and run the risk of making less money. With that said, not all streamers have the skill to play professionally. Instead, some simply have “streaming personalities” that viewers find entertaining to follow, donate to, and subscribe to. Some examples of these are Ninja, Valkyrie, Pokimane, and PewdiePie, who all have several million subscribers on platforms like Twitch and YouTube.

Ninja is one of the biggest streamers on Twitch who makes millions of dollars annually from streaming alone.

A great example of how much streamers make just off streaming platforms is Ninja. Ninja, or Tyler Richard Blevins, is a professional gamer who became a global phenomenon in 2017 as a result of his Fortnite streams. Ninja had more than 17 million followers on Twitch by the end of November 2019, making him the most followed Twitch streamer by a long shot. He’s best known for streaming Halo Infinite, Fortnite, and Halo 3. His estimated revenue from just streaming is about $25 million, though his income is far more than that considering the many sponsorships and partnership deals he’s signed.

Teams: 
When you think about esports, depending on the game, several teams come to mind. If you follow CS:GO for example, Astralis and NaVi are names you’ll definitely know. When it comes to VALORANT, teams like Team Liquid, Cloud 9, Sentinels, and the like are known by those who follow the competitive scene. Traditional sports teams and athletes alike have also taken an interest in esports, with Shaquille O’Neal’s co-ownership of NRG Esports and FC Barcelona’s Rocket League and eFootballPES 2020 teams.

All of these teams are usually funded by large organisations and tend to specialise and compete in one specific game, such as League of Legends, Dota 2, or Counter-Strike. Note that organisations can often have several teams, each for a particular game. The teams that compete at these tournaments often have millions of followers on Twitter, millions watching online, and tens of thousands of spectators following them to in-person tournaments. 

Team Liquid's Valorant roster is one of the game's most popular and talented teams.

Organisations:
The best esports teams are recruited to be a part of organizations and have several teams that specialize in their respective video games but operate under the same name. Examples of these include Cloud9, NRG, TSM, Optic Gaming, and Fnatic.

Some of the major esports organisations: well-established ones and upcomers alike.

Leagues and Tournaments:
Esports teams which can be free agent teams or representing an organisation compete in leagues which have regular seasons and championship events, often international. A great example of this, which has remained popular for over a decade is the League Championship Series or LCS for League of Legends.

Developers/Publishers:
These are the people who build and develop their games and subsequently own all rights surrounding them. This means that they have rights around where the game is played, who can host video game tournaments, and more. Examples include Valve who owns CS:GO and Riot Games who own League of Legends and VALORANT.

Other Important Entities:
These are essential to the esports industry and also benefit from it. They can be divided into:

  • Platforms and Infrastructure: These include tournament platforms like Battlefy and communication tools such as TeamSpeak and Discord which make esports easier to plan and perform in.
  • Livestreaming Resources: These are live streaming platforms which include highlights, old VODs, and analytics which can be monetised by streamers. In particular, Twitch is one of the most popular streaming sites for esports. It was acquired by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million and reached close to 5 billion total hours streamed in 2016.
  • Betting and Item Marketplaces: Esports gambling, fantasy leagues (with pro-esports athletes), and item marketplaces for in-game customization have grown significantly in the last several years. Recently marketplaces have also started selling NFTs-  a good example of a marketplace which does sells skins, game items, as well as NFTS is dMarket.
  • Aspiring Pro Gamer and Fan Resources: This could be everything ranging from news sources, industry statistics tracking, coaching, and skill improvement tools for professional and casual players. Websites like Game Rant and PC Gamer help keep people up to date with the latest gaming industry news. Sites like metafy.gg offer coaching sessions from top professionals in the game to those wanting to improve. 

Data in Esports:

Like any other industry, data can be used to significantly enrich and improve esports by helping with developing applications and systems which can benefit the gaming ecosystem. Data is vital to every aspect of the esports ecosystem. Whether it happens to be streaming analytics, player statistics, or other tools and platforms, esports can’t function without data. Data directly economically benefits the market and helps its growth. Some of the ways it does so includes:

Statistics tracking for players: 
There are multiple platforms online, free and paid, that allow players to know details of their favourite games, which were traditionally quite difficult to gather and visualize. They can help players make better decisions by understanding their mistakes, see their performance trends over time, and see where they stand compared to other players or even professionals. 

blitz.gg gives you statistics for Valorant such as headshot %, win rate, and your top agents.

These tools work similarly to typical digital dashboards that you can find in the day-to-day operation of any leading company performing basic business intelligence. Data is obtained from one or more sources (in this case from all video game servers) and through the use of a series of data processing and model development mechanisms, visualisations are generated in order to retrieve insights for better decision-making in the next games. The result is that players can improve their performance which in turn benefits the competitive scene and generates more hype.

For audiences:
Data visualisation has become key to enhancing viewer experience during live broadcasts as it allows inexperienced participants to follow the game.  

Visualise all kinds of data in-game such as brackets, statistics, and gameplay.

Data is shown on the screen in different tables and graphics during the broadcast, and it is possible to observe in real-time how the most relevant metrics fluctuate during competitive matches. You can also do an analysis and breakdown of good plays from a particular match which can help all viewers understand the game better.

Tournament schedules and information:
This data can help keep track of tournaments happening, the teams and players participating in them, prize pools, dates for matches, registration details, and past events, among others. 

Websites like vlr.gg let you keep track of tournament matches, players participating, schedules, and previous matchups among other things.

The bot system:
Bots are simple forms of AI that simulate the movements and actions of a human player. These virtual players are used to help new players to get up to speed with the mechanics of the game before facing other more experienced players or as a warm-up or practicing tool for more experienced players.

Bots in the practice range can help improve your aim significantly.

The reporting system:
This is a tool that penalizes players for cheating, toxicity, and other actions which negatively impact a game based on historical in-game data collected. If a player receives a high number of reports from others, or the system counts several leaves from the game, they will be automatically banned from the system and prevented from being able to play for some time. ML models are applied which will increase this “punishment time” if the player persists with their bad behaviour.

ML reporting systems help keep the toxicity levels of communities low.

Revenue in Esports

Revenue in esports flow through various channels. The most well-known is revenue related to leagues and tournaments such as prize money and entry fees. Other revenue streams include:

  • Franchising:
    In franchised leagues, the franchiser- in this case, the game publisher- offers a select number of available spots. Each spot in a league comes with a certain price tag. After buying into a franchised league, a franchisee will earn the perks of being a permanent member. Following a regular season of match-ups, points are tallied up to generate a bracket for a final post-season battle to determine the champion. Activision Blizzard started the Overwatch League in 2018, after selling 12 franchise slots in 2017 heading into the inaugural season — with franchise fees reported to be $20 million. Riot Games sold 10 franchise slots for its North American League of Legends Championship Series in 2017 for $10 million to existing teams and $13 million for new teams.
  • Media and broadcasting rights:
    Broadcast media rights have become a major part of revenue generation for major esports leagues and titles as they look to create a sustainable ecosystem and revenue model that will provide a substantial return on their investment. Before Activision Blizzard’s franchise Overwatch League started, Twitch reportedly paid $90 million to stream the first two seasons of the league.
The streaming rights of the inaugural season of the Overwatch League were bought by Twitch for $90 million.
  • Advertising:
    Marketers are hoping to reach the throngs of fans who like to tune in live as professional gamers battle each other in their favorite game, be it League of Legends, Overwatch or others. In 2019, 30.3 million people in the United States will watch an esports event at least once a month, a more than 18 percent increase over last year. Esports digital advertising in the United States generated a revenue of $175 million in 2019. What is more, the figure is expected to further grow and reach $226 million by 2021.
  • Sponsorships:
    In 2019, out of the total esports revenue of $1.1 billion, sponsorships contributed $667 million in revenue, which was the largest chunk. Revenue from esports sponsorship is estimated to reach almost $600 million globally by 2023. ESL’s ongoing 20-year partnership with Intel was renewed again. Commencing in 2022, both entities have committed to investing $100 million in esports between 2022-2025.
  • Tickets:
    At just over $100 million in revenue in 2018, ticket sales don’t occupy the same role that they do in traditional sports, especially after the pandemic when virtual and free broadcasting of tournaments gained traction.
  • Merchandising and partnerships:
    Beyond tickets, esports organizations and streamers have made a business of selling merchandise such as t-shirts, jerseys, and even special editions of gaming peripherals. Logitech introduced the new PRO Series Shroud Edition, a suite of Logitech G’s most advanced gaming peripherals they launched in collaboration with Michael “shroud” Grzesiek who is one of the most beloved streamers who is known for his excellent aim. Shroud’s extensive fanbase would definitely be among those who would be interested in these peripherals.
Shroud and Logitech G launched a series of gaming peripherals in collaboration with each other.

The Future

The esports industry’s global market revenue was forecast to grow to as much as $1.62 billion by 2024. Some of the trends we are already seeing and can look forward to include:

Growth of mobile esports:
Mobile phones are becoming increasingly cheaper and technologically advanced. Mobile games have some of the lowest barriers of entry when it comes to gaming and this has captured millions of esports fans around the globe. Most people have smartphones, and mobile games typically have low hardware requirements, helping mobile esports flourish. In 2020, the global mobile gaming content market was worth $121.1 billion and is projected to reach $169.7 billion in 2025 with Asia generating the most revenues in the segment.  As of August 2021, there were 5.3 billion mobile gamers around the world, with Asia accounting for over 1.29 billion mobile gaming users– more than 48 percent of the global mobile gaming audience.

The access to good quality internet has also significantly increased over the last years and has made mobile esports play more stable and viable. With over $21.9 billion in gross revenues, RPG games were the top mobile gaming app genre worldwide in 2020, growing 19 percent compared to the previous year. Strategy apps were ranked second with a global gross revenue of $15.1 billion during the measured period.

Free Fire and PUBG Mobile are among the battle royale genres’ most popular games available on mobile. It’s no coincidence that these titles are extremely popular in emerging markets and the esports scene for these games is worth several million dollars. PUBG Mobile’s clone, BGMI, has proved extremely popular in India. Four months after the release of the game, BGMI has acquired $7 million via in-app spending. The title has been downloaded over 50 million times on the Google Play Store.

Blockchain and NFTs:
Teams and organisations are trying to find ways to directly monetise their fanbase and are looking at blockchain technology and NFTs to achieve this goal. Esports fans are already used to buying digital goods such as skins, in-game currencies, and the like, and are also more accepting of new technology. Unlike normal NFTs, esport NFTs focus on innovating loyalty amidst their fanbase by creating exclusivity. Fans can earn digital rewards on the blockchain when they engage with an organization’s content or buy NFT artwork of the team or players. These are tradable and can increase in value over time. Initial exclusive fan tokens can also make raising investments easier for esports organisations. In July 2021, European esports juggernaut OG Esports revealed that it was going to enter the NFT fray and the organization was able to rake in a cool $1 million via the sale of just three digital artwork collections, putting them just behind Team Liquid on the esports earnings leaderboard.

Esports betting:
The digital nature of esports puts it in a unique position in the betting space. Every in-game action and movement can be captured as data points from the game’s servers. The global esports betting market size is expected to reach $13.05 billion by 2025, from $7983.2 million in 2019. The number of esports events one can bet on is also growing exponentially, from 3,000 events available in July 2019 to over 50,000 events in July 2020.

The main problem with esports betting when compared to normal sports betting is latency. To be able to create a real-time betting experience, real-time data directly from the server is essential. If someone offers odds or streams faster than the esports video feeds, it could lead to the entire system collapsing. Another big issue the industry faces is integrity. Some betting providers haven’t sought the best gambling licenses and others have been banned by governments in different countries.

Integration of esports into education:
Several universities around the world have realized that esports is a viable career option and have started offering degrees which specialise in the field. Some of these include:

  • The University of Portsmouth offers an Esports Coaching & Performance degree and has partnered with the International Federation of Esports Coaches in order to train the next generation of esports coaches.
  • The Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, part of Nottingham Trent University, offers a BSc (Hons) degree in esports production.
  • Shenandoah University offers a Bachelor of Business Administration Concentration in Esports Management which prepares you to be a leader in the field of esports management by providing a robust business background with a focus on the business of esports. 

There are also scholarships available for esports players. Recently, the Ontario Government launched a $1m CAD scholarship program for students enrolled in esports and other industry-related programmes.

Esport organisations sponsoring technology platforms:
Another way esports organisations have found to bolster their revenue and also gain better metrics about how their players are performing are the acquisition of technology companies working with esports data. A good example of this is TSM, whose parent company Swift Media Entertainment acquired esports coaching and analytics company Blitz. Similarly, T1 invested in the esports analytics startup Mobalytics in 2020. In addition to acquiring new businesses, Swift Media Entertainment also incubates its own ventures, such as the talent agency ICON.

Content Expansions:
Release of content related to video games in other forms of media can greatly benefit the game and publisher. Riot Games is probably the best at doing this, with their various releases centered around their IPs. 

For their game VALORANT, which was designed to be an esport, they have a year-long group of tournaments called the Champions Tour for which they’re constantly releasing content. Whether its videos featuring individual agents from the game, interviews with professional teams and players, or just really cool music videos which generate hype for the game, Riot does a great job of building interest in the game amidst a wide group of people, including those who might not follow the esports scene.

Another example of using media to generate interest in esports which also sets an example for similar future IPs is Arcane, a show released on Netflix which is based off of characters from League of Legends.

“Arcane” is bringing new fans to the League of Legends IP while also reigniting the passions of its longtime followers, serving a uniquely wide audience and expanding League of Legends’ cultural impact. Riot Games also promoted it in their other games like VALORANT by giving players free in-game items as well as releasing a new weapon skin. They also released skins for characters from the show in Fortnite, another popular game.

Outside of Netflix, the series is also a hit in League of Legends, with champions that feature in the show getting a significant boost in pick rate since Arcane launched. The sisters Vi and Jinx, who take up a substantial amount of Arcane’s screen time, saw a significant uptick in their pick rates.

As you can see, esports is an industry with an almost explosive growth trajectory. Whether you’re a professional player, a team owner, media partner, or casual spectator, the opportunities for success and profit are both numerous and significant. By obtaining and analysing data, you will find it easier to find success in your goals.

At Gameopedia, we work with clients on custom requests and can provide in-depth data on any subject related to gaming and esports. Reach out to us to get access to esports data that can empower you to new heights.

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Digitisation: How it’s Changing the Landscape of Video Games

Until recently, the most common method to get a video game you wanted to play was to buy a physical copy of it. However, things have been changing- digital sales of games have overtaken retail games sales. Now, as well as in the future, the digitisation of video games is both the meta as well as the future of gaming. Analysts have estimated that video game revenue will come from almost entirely digital sources as early as 2022.

This can be mainly attributed to digital distribution platforms such as Steam for PC games, or online stores for consoles. Let’s take Steam for instance. It hosts thousands of games from publishers ranging from giants like Bethesda and BioWare, to small indie developers. Not only does it have a variety of digital games though, it also offers regular sales and special events where any game publisher can be sure of selling a large number of copies of a game. 

Digitisation of video games
Steam sales are an excellent time to grab those games you covet at insane prices. Source: Donklelephant

Any good e-retail stores do the below things excellently:
– It provides customers with a great deal of choice, and lets them buy and play these games almost instantly.

– It personalizes the product recommendations to its users based on their preferences and prior purchases.
– It incentivizes them with amazing discounts as well as in-platform rewards.
– It promotes engagement with features like game badges and achievements, friend lists, chat, and more.

 

Apart from benefits for customers, retailers also see the advantages of going digital. They save a significant amount on overhead costs, as well as worrying about unsold or damaged merchandise. Games reaching their target audience has improved significantly as a result of digitisation. The increased access people have to fast internet speeds has widened audiences across new demographics around the globe.

Finally, in the last year and half as a result of the pandemic, gaming as an industry has surged to unprecedented heights. For example, Sony’s fiscal quarter for 2020 began in April as the lockdowns were being implemented globally. Their customers, suddenly house-bound, caused digital sales to make up an astounding 74% of total sales for that quarter, a huge rise from the 59 percent of the previous year. 

Statistic: Digital download ratio of Sony PlayStation gaming software unit sales worldwide from fiscal 1st quarter 2019 to 1st quarter 2021 | Statista
Source: Statista

Advantages of Digitisation

Digitisation comes with a lot of advantages, which we go into below:

– Convenience and ease of access: If you wanted a game ten to fifteen years ago, you would have to visit a physical store, find a copy of the game, and buy it. There were several possible problems, ranging from damaged discs to the game simply being out of stock, as well as the time taken to track down and buy the game. It is also less convenient to store and transport these discs- this is an added cost to the retailer. In today’s digital era, digital games can be bought online by customers with just a few clicks. These platforms also hold a huge variety of games, far more than most physical stores can stock. Further, customers can download and install these games across multiple setups and devices, since they’re tied to an account.

– Personalization: Keeping track of what your customers are buying and playing from your online store is made considerably easier by digitisation. By understanding their preferences and interests, e-retailers can recommend games which are personalized to their customers’ interests.

– A continuously improving game experience: Developers and publishers can gain analytical data about how players engage and interact with their games and also use data tools like sentiment analysis. This helps them to continuously improve and fine-tune their products, ensuring their customers keep getting a better experience going forward.

– Lower costs for customers and retailers alike: E-retailers save a great deal of money by not having to invest in physical stores, cutting out the middlemen, and not having to worry about damaged merchandise, and these cost savings are transferred to the end user. As a result, customers often get great discounts and offers on platforms like Steam during holiday sales and promotions, and even free games on platforms like GoG and Epic Games.

Disadvantages of Digitisation:

It isn’t all positive however- like any industrial transition, digitisation has its costs. Let’s take a look at them:

– Games disappearing forever: If a game is very old, it might not have a digital version of it available. Once taken down from stores, it might disappear forever. An example of this is SimsRefinery- it was lost for decades until someone ran across a floppy disk of the game and made a digital copy of it. Only the existence of a physical copy made its rediscovery possible. This risk also applies to indie games- most of them exist only digitally and if these are removed from e-retail stores, it can lead to them disappearing.

– Data security and protection: As a result of digitisation, a customers’ personal and financial details are often if not always linked with their store accounts, which leaves them vulnerable to data breaches. Whether it is a company accidentally publishing customer details or malicious attacks by hackers, one’s details stored online are always vulnerable to theft or exposure. Companies need to continuously update and upgrade their data security measures to ensure their customer data is safe.

– Closed Platform monopolies: Something to be wary about is the rise of e-shop monopolies on closed platforms. Less competition results in increased prices and stagnant online shopping experiences. Digitisation increases the likelihood of consumers shopping at a platform’s exclusive online store, resulting in higher costs for consumers and publishers alike.

– Licensing concerns, accessibility, and ownership: Traditionally, when an individual buys a physical game, they assume they own that copy and have access to it forever. This works well if you go and purchase a physical disc for example, and gives you a sense of control and ownership. However, when you grab a digital version, you’re really only buying the licence to play it, and this could lead to you losing access to it if the game is removed from the store for some reason. In fact, several major publishers state in their terms of service that if a game isn’t available on their digital platform anymore, you won’t be able to download it again, even if you’d already paid for it.

– The demise of the preowned games market: Games can be expensive, whether they are physical or digital. Buying new copies of them can be hard for quite a few gamers. A way they circumvent this entry barrier to gaming is by buying used physical copies. Several industries such as cars, furniture, electronics, and the like have a thriving pre-owned market and video games are no different. Stores like GameStop have made an industry of reselling used games. However, as a result of digitisation, the preowned games market is heading for its demise as most digital distribution platforms prevent reselling. GameStop closed more than a thousand stores by the end of their fiscal year of 2020, thanks to reduced business and debt. Video games are harder to buy now for a large demographic, which creates a barrier to accessibility.

Trends that Push the Digitisation of Games:

Despite the disadvantages, the gaming industry has been steadily moving towards digitisation for several years now, across multiple gaming platforms. This is a result of certain factors of which we go into detail below:

Shifting game revenue business models: While in the past, the key focus for game retailers and publishers was the number of copies sold, revenue models are evolving across gaming platforms. The free-to-play model lets players play games for no initial charge, introducing monetization at later stages in a variety of ways. These include paying for an ad-free version, buying in-game upgrades and cosmetics, unlocking new areas and characters, and several more. Another model gaining popularity is gaming as a service (GaaS). Similar to how companies provide software as a service (SaaS), GaaS is a subscription-based on-demand service which enables gamers to play titles on hosting servers of video game publishers. Combined with monetizing options like the aforementioned ones, GaaS can help extend the longevity of a video game’s popularity. GaaS also pushes digitisation greatly because the games using it as a revenue model are predominantly digital.

Digital-only console variants: Sony has two variants of their flagship console line, the PlayStation 5. One of these comes with an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive and the second runs purely digital games. Their major competitor, the Xbox consoles from Microsoft, also released an All-Digital Edition for the Xbox One S and is expected to launch a similar model for their new Xbox Series X. These variants are a way to ease their customers into a digital future and also improve sales for their game subscription services (PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass.)

PS5 digital version
Are digital-only consoles the future of console gaming? Source: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Cloud gaming: Gamers can now directly stream games from the cloud, saving them from having to invest in high end hardware or download huge files. People who don’t have a console or a decent gaming PC can find it difficult to game for entertainment. However, with a rise in access to fast internet, streaming games from the cloud can become a reality in the next few years and already is a major area of focus for several tech giants like Facebook’s Facebook Gaming, Google’s Stadia, and Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming.

The rise of esports: Esports is estimated to have an annual growth rate of about 10.4% by 2023. Several hundreds of millions of people watch it both casually and hardcore. It had a YoY growth rate of 11.7 percent by February 2020. As a result of the Covid 19 lockdowns, 889 billion minutes of gaming tournaments have been viewed on Twitch, a massive 35% increase from 2019’s 660 billion minutes. Similar popularity which sports leagues and franchises like the NBA and EPL enjoy is seen amidst esports enthusiasts now. Good examples of this are fans buying their favorite team’s merchandise, as well as huge companies sponsoring and collaborating with esport teams and game studios during tournaments. On older platforms like television, as a result of the pandemic, the time slots reserved for cancelled sports events were filled with esports tournaments instead. The games these tournaments are hosted for are predominantly digital releases and have led to the e-sports industry being valued as a multi-billion dollar industry, further promoting digitisation.

Communities plus streaming and creation tools: On YouTube, after music, game videos account for the most videos as well as views on the platform. 

Playing digital games
Being a streamer is an increasingly lucrative proposition. Source: Shutterstock

The time spent by people watching game video content has increased exponentially, especially with streaming services like YouTube Gaming and Twitch. A lot of these games are primarily digital releases. The popularity of this content causes digitisation to shoot up. Reaching people is also easier as a result of tools enabling single-click live streaming, social platforms integrating live video content, and features like Instagram reels which let creators interact with their audiences anytime, anywhere. 

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the future of video games is entering a digital era. The convenience, cost savings, and reach of digital games far outweighs the cons for game makers and consumers alike, plus there are several things publishers can do to improve digital game ownership such as timed refunds, trading, and publishing retro releases on their e-stores, to name a few. With the two major consoles- Xbox and Playstation- both releasing digital-only variants of their consoles which are cheaper, console gamers will be able to push digitisation even further. Developers and publishers are looking to cut down on middlemen and overheads to increase their profits by not depending on retailers to sell their products. For example, Capcom reported how digital sales significantly improved their company’s profits by removing retailers from the sales journey.

It appears to be only a matter of time until CDs and cartridges join the obsolescence of floppy disks and the like. As the gaming industry enters a new age, game companies must face questions regarding preserving past games, digital exclusives, and more, as well as come up with a long-term plan to deal with the shift to digital sales. Promoting cross-platform play and saves will also be essential as it enables users to jump between different devices. CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a great example of this. They offered the game for free on PC if it was owned on a console and made cloud save transfers possible between platforms. 

At this juncture, it isn’t a question of whether digitisation of video games is happening, it’s how it impacts the gaming industry as a whole. To be able to stand out amidst the rising competition, e-retailers must ensure their product pages are accurate and well-optimised, both of which require high quality game metadata. They need to be able to boost their discoverability and keep their customers loyal. Reach out to us for data covering over 180,000 games, spanning 200 platforms across four continents.

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