As Epic pumps $100 million into Fortnite tournaments, should eSports become more professional?

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With Epic Games recently announcing it plans to pump $100 million into prizes for Fortnite tournaments and with the International Dota 2 Championship seeing teams battle for a fund in excess of $20m, are eSports about to gain wider recognition and, crucially, sponsorship?

Yes according to the latest Harris 24 survey which concludes that around half of UK respondents aged 16-54 believe they have great potential for a mass audience in the future (49%), with a fifth of those polled (19%) agreeing that eSports should form an official part of the Olympic Games.

The latest study, which aimed to investigate the UK’s awareness and perception of eSports and the impact on brands who sponsor such events, reveals that over three-quarters of those surveyed (76%) have heard of the term “eSports” and that two-fifths (39%) are interested in watching.

Streaming services – such as YouTube Gaming, used by almost half of eSports viewers (48%) – as well as Twitch (39%) are rapidly driving awareness.

Of course Fortnite, a relative newcomer, stands out as the compelling eSports title, together with long-standing franchises FIFA and Call of Duty. Such games are helping to broaden its audience, which still remains a niche (around 18% of the UK currently watch eSports, according to the study).

Deeper coverage of the top competitions and its inclusion in the Olympics could be the core drivers to create more of a mass-market appeal. While the latter is not without its controversy (only 19% agree it should be included and 45% have concerns about violent eSports games), there is broader agreement (38%) that having eSports in the Olympics would make the games connect better with younger generations.

The survey highlights hugely enticing brand sponsorship opportunities in the coming years. Over half of all UK respondents (51%) and over three-quarters of those who were eSports viewers (76%) say they are happy for brands to sponsor eSports.

Furthermore, over half of those questioned (53%) and over three-quarters of those who were also eSport viewers (76%) agree that brands who sponsor eSports benefit from the association.

Crucially, almost three-fifths of the 2,030 respondents (58%) claim that eSports can help sponsor brands connect with a younger and tech-savvy audience.

For players and teams involved in eSports, there is the appeal of major prize money with Epic Games recently announcing a $100 million prize pool for eSports events featuring battle royale game Fortnite.

Says Steve Evans, Head of Entertainment at Harris Interactive.

“It’s fair to say that entertainment is a driving force for watching eSports, with almost two-fifths (37%) of the public agreeing that they are very entertaining.”

“What’s more, we can see from the survey that viewers are extremely receptive to brand association, which should encourage brands to invest in sponsorship opportunities afforded by popular eSports events, leagues and tournaments.

“The potential for brands to tap into younger, tech-savvy audiences is huge, and will only increase further as its popularity intensifies.”

A link to the full research can be found at: http://www2.harris-interactive.com/esportsreport

Related post: Can I make a living play video games? 

Chris Price