November 21, 2018

If you aren’t already aware, eSports is the fastest growing form of live entertainment on the planet. In 2017, the number of frequent eSports viewers and enthusiasts worldwide amounted to 143 million and is projected to reach 250 million in 2021. Tournaments like the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational drew over 127 million viewers (the most viewed eSports event to date). To put that into perspective, the average viewership for Super Bowl LI was 111.3 million. When there aren’t tournaments or live events going on, platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming maintain an around-the-clock broadcast of live gameplay to tens of millions of daily active users.

Where the numbers for eSport’s viewership gets most interesting is when you break it down demographically. In 2018, Limelight Networks published a report called State of Online Gaming 2018 that based its findings on 3,000 consumers ages 18 and older in France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. who play video games at least once a week.

According to the report, “gamers between the ages of 18-35 spend more time watching other people play video games than they spend watching traditional sports on television, with gamers 18-25 spending nearly an hour more each week watching online gaming than watching traditional sports.”

These numbers quite obviously suggest a huge generational shift in sports entertainment viewing habits, which bodes well for the longevity and growth of the eSports industry.

eSports Revenue Opportunities

From a revenue standpoint, eSports still falls short of traditional sports, especially in the U.S. But market experts are making bold predictions for the future and believe eSports are on a meteoric rise. In 2017, eSports generated $345 million of annual revenue in North America alone while the NFL and MLB earned $14 billion and $10 billion respectively. Globally, the revenue for eSports was $655 million and is projected to reach $1.65 billion by 2021, with China and North America generating 56% of the revenue.

Hosting An eSports Event

If you’re unfamiliar with what an eSports event looks like, check out the opening ceremony of the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice, Poland at Spodek Arena. This event drew 173,000 fans to the stadium and surrounding festival.

With all the momentum behind eSports, stadiums, arenas, and convention centers across the globe are looking into ways to better outfit themselves so that they can host live events and tournaments.

So, what do CIOs and facilities IT venue managers need to know?

Besides all the lights and spectacle, being able to technically support these kinds of events requires a strong, reliable network that can supply the bandwidth needed to run games with near perfection. Because precision and timing are so crucial in competitive gaming, it’s important for event hosts to do everything possible to minimize gameplay stutters and interruptions.

Equally, gamers, as a group, are avid smartphone users, so you’ll want to make sure your network is capable of handling the increased mobile data usage to provide the best possible fan experience, whether for streaming, social sharing, or connecting with their community.

Additionally, it is important to consider your network’s ability to support additional technologies, like virtual reality, which have gained increasing traction in the eSports world.

Virtual Reality and eSports

As was demonstrated at the 2018 League of Legends Worlds Championship which hosted a mixed-reality K-Pop band comprising hologram game characters alongside artists in the opening concert, VR, augmented- and mixed realities seem to be a perfect fit with eSports.

When the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship broadcasted it’s 2017 tournament in VR, it was able to attract 340,000 peak concurrent viewers. This was a 200% increase from its first VR live stream. The broadcast delivered an immersive 360-degree VR space that included live stats, game replays, and scores in real-time.

Further, consider the popularity of “Lost in Time”, the world’s first interactive mixed-reality TV show that allows viewers to participate in activities alongside the competitors through their mobile devices – if eSports venues can design an environment that supports these kinds of creative, onsite fan engagement opportunities, the returns could be huge.

Gearing Up for eSports: Key Takeaways

1. Create a powerful environment suitable for the sport

Because eSports can last up to 12 hours a day for three or four days and aren’t structured like traditional sports where there is a halftime or short breaks between quarters, there tends to be a lot of downtime between matches. Naturally, many people turn to their phones to kill time.

Venues shouldn’t just leave it up to their attendees to entertain themselves during these downtime periods, but instead should cater to the audience they are serving by providing ways for fans to gather and socialize with one another onsite as well as digitally. After all, the eSports demographic (i.e. “digital generation”) is all about convenience, connecting and community.

2. Create an engaging, connected environment suitable for the fanbase

Finally, while arenas can hire outside help to set up temporary cloud networks to run games, a venue’s mobile device connectivity depends on a more permanent solution. The best way to provide a great cellular connection to support fan’s streaming and connectivity needs is by installing a robust, fiber-based cellular infrastructure (DAS).

Here’s why:

  • Future Proof: Fiber DAS offers a virtually limitless bandwidth to support the streaming and connectivity demands of eSports fans. Additionally, a fiber infrastructure can support/layer multiple systems and easily scale to support new technologies as they are developed.

  • Minimal Space Requirements: the type of wireless network required to support the amount of bandwidth that will be needed for these types of events would traditionally require hardware and coax cabling that takes up a LOT of space; fiber alleviates much of the needed space dedication because fewer cables are needed to support the same number of devices, and because it is light-weight and flexible, it is less demanding on structural requirements.

With mobile data usage expected to continue its upward trend, outfitting your venue with a fiber-to-the-edge infrastructure will allow you to keep up with usage demands well into the future.

For more information on DAS or fiber network infrastructures and the technological capabilities they can unlock, check out our post Preparing for the Hyper-Connected World & the Internet of Things.

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