One of esports most valuable functions in the broader sports and entertainment space is playing the role of an ‘agent of change’. It’s difficult to change plans and models when your league has been doing things the same way for 100 years. In business and beyond, it often takes the new guy to come in with a different perspective and experiences to show the time-hardened professionals how to adapt for the future.
An innovation-killing phrase heard often in meetings and boardrooms is: “We’ve always done it this way”. Fortunately, for the esports industry, online streaming and remote interaction is the way we’ve “always done it”.
While the COVID-19 virus has forced events of all types to quickly find new solutions, continuing business-as-usual without bringing together groups of people, we in the esports industry have simply gone back to our roots.
Esports was born and bred online. Younger millennials and Gen Z have grown up producing online streams and consuming content digitally. In fact, this behavior has led to major challenges of attracting attendance and viewership for traditional sports and television. The NFL, NBA, MLS and now NHL have all started esports leagues in attempts to capture the attention and loyalty of young people who are watching and playing video games online. Every major brand now has an esports marketing strategy for this reason. While the NBA and UFC are making headlines about hosting events without live fans, we in the gaming community are returning to our regularly scheduled programs.
I often discuss the pros and cons of the esports industry. A common challenge is that our industry is owned and operated by young gamers who typically lack the decades of traditional experience boasted by other industries. This is not a harsh criticism, but rather an acknowledgment of an aspect that we can and should work to improve. However, every cloud has a silver lining. The benefit, in this case, is that we are not held back by the traditional ways of providing content or engaging viewers. We know what to do, how to do it, and which types of content resonate with young gamers because we are the audience. We’ve been watching streams on our phones, on Twitch and YouTube, for years. We know how to set up a stream and broadcast to hundreds of thousands of viewers from the comfort of our own homes.
For years, gamers have been criticized for being anti-social. Now we’re all being told to practice social distancing. While traditional events struggle to move forward without audiences, one of esports biggest challenges has been driving attendees to physical tournaments. Experienced professionals have questioned how gamers can be entertained and interact remotely. Publishers and leagues have hired traditional sports executives to apply their experience and best practices to our world. Don’t misunderstand me; some of that is necessary. But at this time, at this moment, the call to action is right in our industry’s sweet spot. Sit back, take notes and enjoy the show.
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Board Chair | Esports Trade Association
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