It was Good Friday and, as you would expect, it was raining. Not just any rain, it was End of Days.
My walk towards madness took another giant leap as I trudged through the torrential downpour to watch Wimbledon take on Fleetwood Town in a must-win game for the Dons. The match shouldn’t have gone ahead. The pitch was waterlogged, passes were impossible, and in a moment of unspeakable heartache, Fleetwood scored courtesy of a puddle. Honestly, I’ve been to more pleasant Aztec sacrifices.
As I stood there, sodden and miserable, I asked myself if there was another way for me to set my money on fire.
As it so happened, I returned after the Easter break to an email informing me about a new sports venue that has just opened in Las Vegas. The Esports Arena is a purpose-built, permanent venue on The Strip and, as the name suggests, is for Esports – that’s computer games to you and me.
The 2,800sqm multi-level arena boasts that it is designed to host every form of competitive gaming, from daily play to high-stakes Esports tournaments, and features a competition stage, 15m LED video wall, telescopic seating, PC and console gaming stations and a network TV-quality production studio. Accompanying elements include virtual reality platforms, retro gaming consoles and a comprehensive menu by world-renowned chef José Andrés. It’s aimed at both casual and professional gamers, and even non-gamers who want an insider’s look at what’s quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular spectator sports.
This is no small investment and underlines just how popular Esports is becoming.
According to the Financial Times, in the US in 2017, $100bn in annual revenues flowed into the global games industry, with an eye-popping $693m of that total coming from Esports, a figure set to more than double to $1.5bn by 2020. To underline its growing popularity further, 11.1bn Esports videos were streamed in 2017 in China, and 2.7bn in North America.
It has been suggested, likely by men with beards, that the revenue from Esports will come from three areas: the sale of content rights to broadcasters; advertising revenues from product placement; and spectator entry tickets.
In the UK, the London Games Festival in 2017 attracted more than 50,000 people across 10 days, while more than 10,000 are expected at Resonate at the Scottish Event Campus in October.
In the US and across Asia, while tens of thousands attend live competitive tournaments, several million (million!) spectate online, and people are actually paying to do it. It provides a huge revenue opportunity for the organisers – think of all that precious advertising.
What with the famously inclement weather we enjoy here in Britain always getting in the way of live events, the draw of Esports is becoming all the more appealing. It’s a fresh market to look at, and a dry one at that.
And if you’re losing, you can just restart at the press of a button. After that Good Friday debacle, I see the e-ppeal.