The potential of the e-sports industry (and the people who don’t understand it)

Dear e-journal,

Whilst my studies previously had a diminishing effect on my activity on Gamers Decrypted I am now finding that my current uni project has done the opposite. I have encountered a new exciting phase in my education which requires me to conduct my own smaller research project. Of course, given the choice of what to focus my research on, I went straight towards gaming – this to the horror and dismay of my supervisor. Together me and Ludvig (my studymate and partner in crime – for the next few weeks at least) will have a closer look at the communication channel Twitch and how it can be used by professional gamers to build and maintain relationships with their fans. Therefore I’ve been spending some time looking over the latest lolesports.com figures and the PVC e-sports consumer market report.

As you might remember from my article “Your typical e-sports fan”, 36 million people watched the League of Legends World Championship finals last year. This was already a larger number than that of the people who watched the World Series or the NBA finals. This year the League of Legends World Championship finals was seen by 43 million people. According to the PVC report, the audience watching electronical sports has now grown to contain 70 million people. That’s 10 million more than the population of the UK! This is a fascinating growth for anyone interested in the e-sports industry or marketing. Since the attention of people truly is the most expensive currency in the world today, this is huge. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to focus my research around this flourishing but relatively unexplored industry. I eventually found someone crazy enough to agree to conduct the research and write the paper with me.

The first step for us was to pitch our research project to two professors. The goal here was to convince them that our chosen field of study was relevant for the academic field of media and communication science. Our pitch resulted in one of our professors looking confused and the other raving on about the wonders of future marketing methods connected to the research we would be conducting. We didn’t get feedback similar to that of the other research groups, but at least we were cleared to continue our study. This could possibly be credited to the fact that the confused professor didn’t want to admit how confused she really was and decided to just agree with the enthusiastic professor next to her. At this point the groups were given their own supervisors. The one we were matched up with happens to be my favourite out of all of the professors I have encountered thus far. That said, after our first consultation with her it was clear that she does not understand and has no interest in understanding anything related to games or e-sports. With her very unique charm she cursed her bad luck in being landed with our research project. In hindsight I’m not actually sure why this match was made, it seems to contain a few glaring flaws. To make a long story short; our supervisor’s cynicism towards gamers and the ever evolving world of e-sports, as well as her lack of curiosity to learn more about the phenomenon really made me think. She kept referring to the game streaming platform we were going to be researching by different names ending with “itch” such as: “… I’m not sure I understand… what exactly is this Switch thing?”. At one point she exclaimed exasperatedly: “I don’t understand… who are these people who want to sit and look at others playing games on Twitch for hours? Next up you should research that and find out who they are, because I don’t understand!”. At this I simply smiled to myself and admitted defeat, settling with the partial victory – at least she was finally saying Twitch, right? I didn’t bother explaining to her that the research she was referring to had already been done by people who have a much better understanding of the value of such information.

What I have learnt through this experience is that although the scepticism is strong from many directions, my own enthusiasm and fascination for the gaming industry is unshaken. Paving the way for the potential of this industry will be a trying process for all involved but I do not believe that it will be a long or drawn out process. Having had a closer look at the latest market reports has left my conviction stronger than ever. More and more investors are realising the potential in the market. Who are these people my professor asked me. They are technologically advanced, problem solving, early adopters who are highly communicative – especially online. In a society where shopping and learning about new products no longer happens on the high streets but online, this target group is invaluable. My professor might not realise it but these are the people that help her, or maybe her son, choose what phone, laptop or TV she should purchase. They were the ones who wrote (or filmed) the reviews for the different products on the market. The people who take an interest in e-sports and gaming have serious buyer-influence over very valuable markets in today’s consumer culture. Knowledge like this helps me. For every cynical snort at the mention of gamers, the industry, e-sports or streaming I know that there are clever people out there realising the true potential, not just of the industry, but of the people behind it.

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