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More football clubs need to start taking an interest in esports

With esports about to hit the mainstream, creative agency TwelfthMan’s digital product manager James Botterill says, traditional sports clubs can take advantage

I’ve always been into gaming and esports is the natural evolution of that.

When I was growing up, we’d watch over the shoulder of the best player on the arcade machine.

Now you can watch the best players online wherever you are in the world.

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Some of the greatest competitive gamers are making more than Football players

Gaming has always had a communal aspect to it, but as the technology advances, that community is growing faster than ever.

There are an estimated 165 million esports enthusiasts worldwide with an audience approaching nearly 400 million.

According to Newzoo’s industry report, global esports revenues were projected to reach $906m in 2018, representing year-on-year growth of over 38%.

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The FIFA 18 eWORLD CUP was insanely popular with millions of people vying for the title

It’s no wonder traditional professional sports clubs are taking note.

For them, esports offers another way to engage with an existing fan base or reach a new one – especially a younger generation accustomed to the increasing crossover between traditional sports and esports.

Video games such as Dota 2, League of Legends, Fortnite or Counter-Strike may seem unrelated to professional football, but for pioneering clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and FC Schalke 04 who have dedicated esports teams, they represent a gateway to a new audience and a massive market for their brand.

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AS Roma Fnatic recently won the Gfinity Elite Series playing FIFA 19

Clubs can also benefit from the gamers in their traditional playing squads raising their profile with an esports fanbase.

Tottenham and England stars Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Kieran Trippier, for example, featured on streaming service Twitch playing Fortnite with renowned streamer Ninja.

For the uninitiated, esports – or competitive gaming – is live, organised computer gaming, often played by professionals and watched online by millions across the globe.

Increasingly, events take place in packed arenas on giant screens in front of thousands of fans.

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Thousands of fans come to watch League of Legends one of the most popular esports live

Organised, global leagues involving professional teams have been created around the most popular games, including those based on traditional sports such as basketball.

The NBA 2K League, for example, is owned and managed by the NBA with existing clubs taking ownership of the esports teams. Motor sport’s governing body, the FIA also has a number of esports initiatives while in football, the announcement at the start of October that all Premier League clubs will be taking part in the first official ePremier League (ePL) esports tournament in 2019 means that all top-flight clubs in England will now have an esports presence.

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An opportunity for Premier League teams to enter the world of competitive gaming

Entering the esports world through a related game – such as FIFA for football teams – is a logical first step for clubs testing the market. Others, though, have taken the plunge already. PSG’s Dota 2 team – PSG.LGD – got to the final of the $25m International 2018 Dota 2 Championship in Vancouver in August.

The tournament, featuring 18 teams from around the world, was attended by 20,000 people at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver and watched by a reported 15 million online.

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The French team have made huge strides into games completely unrelated to football

Playing in esports leagues such as Dota 2 raises the global profile of the Paris brand beyond a traditional football fan base and taps directly into huge and established Asian esports markets.

Fans of the PSG esports teams don’t need to like football to buy into the brand. The potential is staggering, with new games being released all the time. It took Fortnite, for example, less than a year to attract 140 million players following the release of its battle royale mode in September 2017.

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The hit battle royale game has pledged upwards of $100million towards prize money

With traditional sports media such as Sky Sports, Fox and the BBC now showing esports, the move into the mainstream is clearly underway.

I think that breakthrough could be helped by deeper integration of esport functionality into the next generation of video game consoles. 

We are certainly beginning to see a much greater focus on the audience – not just the players – and improving the spectator experience will provide opportunities in the years to come.

With so much to play for, don’t be surprised if your team are soon part of the game.

You can take a look at TwelfthMan’s website here!

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