Whether you’re a pro on the circuit yourself, a follower of competition or totally disinterested in the concept, esports is undeniably big business. The sector has exploded into the mainstream in recent years, evolving from being a niche hobby to becoming a multi-million-dollar industry.
Recent projections place the value of the esports at around $1.5bn by 2023 and that should come as no surprise. The prize money is growing with each tournament that passes and the truly global footprint of competitions, in terms of both player and fan, make it arguably the most lucrative emerging market in sports.
This explosion in popularity and overall expansion of operations has also delivered broader benefits for the gaming sector, even beyond those that directly engage with esports. The emergence of an ecosystem made up of news sites, online communities, developers and teams means there’s a much bigger pay-off.
So much so are the acknowledged benefits, both in terms of financial incentives and mainstream cultural penetration, that a growing number of games are being developed with the esports sector in mind, and the esports sector itself is influencing the decision-making process that dictates which titles that get off the ground.
The big genres in esports are shooters – with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Fortnite making up two of the top five highest-grossing in prize money – alongside multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, like League of Legends and Dota 2.
And it’s entirely reasonable for developers to pay attention to trends in the sector when formulating what their next big-budget title should look like.
Riot Games, the developers behind League of Legends, recently released the closed beta of Valorant, a first-person shooter that is already succeeding in tempting esports players across to explore the possibilities.
Recently, Sinatraa announced his ‘retirement’ from Overwatch to become a Valorant player, leaving his San Francisco Shock team behind. It’s clear that this latest title from Riot will make waves in the esports scene, especially when you consider how much Valorant news is dominating the agenda at present.
Valorant remains pro-actively on the look-out for new players, but they’re not the only ones – and not the only title to be designed with ‘poaching talent’ in mind. For example, expect Overwatch 2 to strike back following the loss of Sinatraa, while Riot’s next title from the LoL Universe, auto-battler Teamfight Tactics, is also expected to ripple the radar.
— Valorant News (@ValorantUpdates) April 29, 2020
A sign of things to come
At one time esports was the domain of the elite player, and of course it’s still true that the best players will command the most lucrative prize pots. But as the number of players grows, more developers are considering concepts through that filter of network competition.
A game that generates interest on an esports level will resonate throughout the industry, from professional players to casual gamers – and it’s almost a case of not risking being left behind. Evergreen titles like FIFA and Rocket League are firmly in that sphere and updates to either franchise will be designed with that relationship in mind.
And whether you’re a pro player or not, gamers are slowly acclimatizing to an industry that’s narrative and trends are being set by elite competition.