Esports 101: What You Need To Know About This Quietly Massive Entertainment Phenomenon

April 20, 2020

All eyes in media and entertainment are on Jeffrey Katzenberg’s and Meg Whitman’s upcoming mobile-first premium video streaming service Quibi that launches next month (I wrote about the case “for” and “against” Quibi previously for Forbes). But for her part, Whitman seems most astonished by the rise of esports. In my recent interview with Whitman, she proclaimed that “the esports thing is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.” Expanding on the subject, Whitman said, “I’ve seen businesses that are up and to the right in Silicon Valley. This is straight up. It’s extraordinary. Just extraordinary.” 

She’s right, of course. After all, as massive as the theatrical motion picture business is with global box office reaching $42.5 billion in 2019 B.C. (before coronavirus), it pales next to the global games market that generated about $150 million last year (or, 3.5X box office numbers). In the movie business, a $100 million box office opening weekend signals a blockbuster. Multiply that by 10, and you have the game industry’s largest opening. In 2013, Grand Theft Auto V grossed $800 million in its first 24 hours and hit the $1 billion mark in just three days. And now that gamer title is the highest grossing work of entertainment ever. Over 90 million units sold. More than $6 billion revenues generated.

Gamers, who are generally young males, are hard-core super-users who certainly aren’t afraid to spend money for the games they love. They also love to watch a good live head to head challenge, even if they watch it online, virtually. These head-to-head gamer battles on epic games like Call of Duty and League of Legends drive a quietly massive industry known as esports, which is projected to generate billions of dollars worldwide over the next few years. esports is already far bigger than you may think. Goldman Sachs forecast global esports revenues to easily exceed $1 billion in 2019 and nearly triple in just three years by 2022. Esports attracts more young male viewers than the World Series or NBA finals – and has for years.

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