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New Players Enter the eSports Area

By Karina Masolova

Turner’s Cartoon Network EMEA is the latest company to enter the eSports arena with a single elimination live tournament based on its upcoming mobile game app Adventure Time Card Wars Kingdom in partnership with Machinima. Let’s Play Flooping Card Wars! will stream on Machinima’s Twitch channel on July 15, when four of the gaming culture site’s top stars—ChimneySwift11, JeromeASE, CavemanFilms and TJ Smith Gaming—compete for the crown. Machinima recently launched Mach-1, an in-house gaming agency, to guide brand partners through the burgeoning eSports landscape.

As eSports is growing, new players are emerging from outside the usual video game and sports industries. While most fans today are male millennials, the industry is set to expand to an even wider, and younger, subset. According to research firm Newzoo, the global eSports economy will grow to $463 million in 2016, up 43% from 2015. The firm estimates that there are currently 148 million eSports “enthusiasts” and another 144 million “occasional viewers.”

The potential for the industry is widespread, from harnessing the personalities of eSports players to extending the programs of older games such as Doom—17% of fans believe that the classic game would make “great eSports,” according to a recent study by Battlefy and Frank N. Magid Associates.

The same study found that 95% of eSport viewers are male and 92% have been watching for a year or more. League of Legends is the most popular game among eSports fans (47% currently playing; vs. 63% watching as a spectator), followed by Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (25% vs. 58%). Other games that respondents believe would make “great eSports,” were the newly released Overwatch (74%) and Rocket League (56%).

While Amazon’s Twitch, a live streaming video platform, is the most prolific vertical for distributing eSports, there have been efforts to bring competitions to linear TV. Disney’s ESPN launched its eSports vertical in 2015, and the network has aired a range of tournaments since then with partners including Nintendo. Time Warner’s Turner Sports partnered with WME/IMG to launch E-League, a pro league that competes on dedicated a eSports slot on TBS. And eSports event organizer ESL (the No. 2 eSports broadcaster worldwide, per Newzoo) launched its own 24/7 eSports linear channel, esportsTV, through parent company MTG’s Viasat platforms.

Others entering the space include Endemol Shine Beyond USA, which launched its gaming and sports network SMASHER last year, as well as video game publishers Activision and and EA Games.

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