Esports continues to go from strength to strength, not only enticing more players but also building audiences worldwide as more money is poured into the professional side of video gaming.
As the New Year gets underway, it is worth looking to the future and scoping out what is in store in the world of competitive gaming, so read on as we do just that.
Further investment from advertisers is inevitable
The past 12 months have caused many industries to reconfigure their operations to cope with differing circumstances and a change in consumer habits.
This has very much worked in favor of esports, and with top personalities achieving audiences of literally millions of highly engaged viewers, it is expected that advertisers will shift their focus to this ecosystem with increased intensity.
From branded tie-ins with top influencers, similar to those deals seen in other professional sports, to event sponsorship which will help to inflate prize pools and incentivize further expansion of the pro scene, the more cash that floods into esports, the better it is for all involved.
Cross-pollination with other sports will increase
We have already seen esports emulating established alternatives in a number of ways in recent years, such as offering sportsbook wagering that is equivalent to Super Bowl betting on the most high profile tournaments.
In 2021, this trend will pick up pace even further, spearheaded by a deal struck by the Philadelphia Eagles to work with an esports operator in order to run a series of events involving the popular Madden NFL football game franchise.
The fact that big names in other sports are recognizing the impact and influence that esports has over modern audiences should be a sign not only that this niche has come of age, but that there is even a degree of threat posed by this pastime. More teams may decide to jump on the bandwagon this year, for fear that if they do not, they will get left behind.
Game popularity will continue to fluctuate
At the moment there are only a handful of esports titles that are effectively incumbent in their position as staples of the industry, while regular shake-ups are possible as some games fall out of favor while others rise to prominence almost overnight.
As well as the aforementioned Madden franchise and its soccer equivalent from FIFA, which have built-in audiences because of their connection with real-world sports, the likes of Counter-Strike: GO and League of Legends are amongst this select few.
Elsewhere a surge of interest in Apex Legends and Valorant has seen other games which were once stalwarts of the pro scene, such as Overwatch, tumble down the viewing figures on Twitch.
Such volatility is a little worrying on the surface, at least from the perspective of the companies looking to maintain their titles at the top of the ladder, and the professional players who pour their efforts into becoming dominant in specific games. Hopefully as the market matures, this will become less of an issue.
The wider world will take notice
For many years, esports has been an outsider pastime, shunned by the mainstream and poorly understood by anyone not directly connected with it. However, this active ignorance is melting away, especially as a result of increased celebrity involvement with the scene.
With famous faces starting to play, stream and support esports in 2020, it was impossible for the wider media to feign disinterest for any longer. This trend is set to continue into 2021, and will be a self-perpetuating benefit to the growth of esports as the year gets underway.