Esports is fast becoming serious business. Not just for geeks and gamers anymore, the numbers are impressive:
- The number of esports gamers and enthusiasts worldwide is projected to exceed 427 million by 2019.
- ESports global revenue is expected to exceed $1 billion annually by 2019.
- There were 3,877 esports tournaments around the world in 2016, with total prize money awarded exceeded $93 million. For some, gaming is becoming a lucrative way of life. Professional esports teams are popping up all over—perhaps even in your own backyard!
- More than 50 percent of esports fans and players in the USA are between the ages of 21 and 35. An additional 28 percent are over 35 years of age (a good portion of which are employed full-time, married, and have children), and with a 60/40 male-female split, the esports audience represents a sizeable consumer block with considerable buying power.
- A number of well-known entertainment companies, athletes, team owners, and sports franchise are investing heavily in esports teams, leagues, and broadcasting, including Disney, NBC, and TBS; Shaquille O’Neil, Alex Rodriguez, Magic Johnson, and Robert Kraft; the Sacramento Kings, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, and football clubs FC Copehagen, FC Schalke 04, and Paris Saint-Germain—just to name a few.
Having set the stage (and it’s a big one), let’s now take a look inside the world of esports as we follow the fictional (but fact-based) exploits of a team of esports participants . . .
It’s Not Just About Games Anymore
“This will be my last competition.”
The words were still ringing in Tomas Castillo’s ears, even though he’d heard them two weeks earlier. Now, in the wee hours sitting in his car outside the Gamesync Gaming Center in San Diego, with a coffee in one hand and a donut in the other as he awaited the rest of his team’s arrival, he took a few moments to reflect.
Zack Reynolds, at 29 years of age, was washed up—or soon would be, just another athlete whose reflexes had started to slow just enough to knock him from the top tier and whose list of injuries was starting to mount. It was tennis elbow last year, and more recently, it was shoulder tendinitis. Who knew what would be next?
At 22 himself, young by most measures, Tomas had to wonder, “Is this the life, the profession for me, if I’m going to be washed up in 7 or 8 years?” Maybe he’d prove the exception to the 30-and-you’re-out rule, but he doubted it. Zach had always been top dog, the go-to guy, numero uno, but even he wasn’t going to outfox Father Time.
Tom Brady might be able to do it in the NFL (so far), but the eSports profession was a whole other kind of grueling. Ever since Zach’s sponsor and manager Hyun Park had recruited him to team “Otherworlds” straight out of college six months ago, Tomas had been up at 7 or 8 am every day for breakfast, followed by an hour-long virtual meeting with his teammates and Mr. Park to discuss various plans for practice, competitions, and/or upcoming fan interactions. Then it would be on to playing several hours of scrims and practice, practice, practice! Often times his “work” days would not end until 10 pm, 11 pm, or later—and then he’d start it all over again. He could never get enough of “League of Legends,” but when it came to the work aspect of it all, grueling was the perfect word for it all right.
Sometimes, he thought, he should have put his new media degree to work—but only sometimes. Granted, his schedule might be less hectic in a traditional profession and his future path more clear, but ever since his parents had first brought home that Wii, followed by a PS3 and “Rock Band,” he’d been bitten by the video game bug. It was in his blood. It was one of his one and only true passions. He liked to play. He liked the comradery. He liked to give his friends and family a good, old fashioned virtual beat down. And now, thanks to Mr. Park, he was able to make a modest living at it with the rest of his teammates—and soon might be able to make a GREAT living at it, just like Zach had done the last 3 or 4 years.
ESports was going to be the next big thing. Heck, it already was, it was just taking time for everyone else to realize it. It had grown from $194 million industry in 2014 to $463 million globally in 2016, and was expected to exceed $1 billion in revenues by 2019.
A car pulled in beside him—a nice car, fiery red even in the gloom of early morning. Zach had arrived. Most likely, he’d have Kevin Carpenter with him, a 20-yr old gamer from LA, the team’s most recent recruit, as well as 24-year old Mateo Cardona, who’d been a member of team “Otherworlds” for closing in on six years already. Mateo had made quite a reputation for himself early on and joined the team straight out of high school.
The passenger door opened and closed, as did one of the rear doors. Kevin and Mateo rolled out, looking their usual disheveled selves. Each had a backpack slung over his shoulder, filled with gaming gear no doubt—everything from power supplies and cords to headsets and even snacks and power drinks. You could never be too well prepared. Mateo was an Alienware aficionado; Kevin—well, Tomas wasn’t sure what kind of bag he preferred. He’d been through quite a few in recent months. His current one was some black thing that could just as easily have been holding a bunch of schoolbooks as it was holding hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of high tech gaming gear.
Tomas was in Mateo’s camp. His Alienware 2.0 Vindicator bag was a good, sturdy option, courtesy of Mobile Edge. His gear was important to him—critical in fact. He couldn’t afford to break it, lose it, or spend lots of time gathering it all up whenever he had to be somewhere else other than his apartment lair.
The driver-side door opened. Zach hopped out. As expected, he was dressed in his usual competition attire—his gray “Otherworlds” hoodie and bright red ball-cap emblazoned with the Gunnar logo, one of their top sponsors. But what Tomas didn’t expect, was the large and stylish backpack Zach retrieved from the back seat and slung over his shoulder. Tomas squinted in the dim light, trying to make out the logo on the back.
He mouthed the letters, “M-O-B-I-L-E-E-D-G-E,” and smiled—but this bag was different from anything else he’d ever seen.
He flung his door open. “Hey,” Tomas hollered, motioning to his left shoulder. “What’s this?”
Zach grinned. “It’s new,” he said. “So new, in fact, that they haven’t even made it yet. This is a prototype.” He slipped the bag off his shoulder and handed it to Tomas.
Tomas felt the heft of the bag. It was filled with stuff. There were pockets and compartments and zippers, and—
“It’s from Mobile Edge,” Zach announced. “It’s new. They call it the CORE Gaming Backpack. It’s about as full-featured as they come. You can practically store any gaming laptop in it, your gaming accessories, snacks, drinks, plus an external charge port for phones and other devices.”
Tomas shook his head. “How do you rate?” He asked, eyeing the bag with envy.
“Mobile Edge wanted a gaming backpack designed, developed, prototyped, tested, and produced by gamers specifically for gamers, so they contacted yours truly for my expert opinion,” Zach explained. “The results speak for themselves.”
He took the bag back from Tomas.
“How do I get one?”
“Well,” said Zach. “You’re in luck. Mobile Edge is about to move from prototyping into production with a Kickstarter campaign that lets gamers like us get in on the ground floor. Take a minute during one of our breaks today to check out their Kickstarter Page. I’m loving this new bag. I wish I’d had it years ago!”
There’s More to Come
Watch this blog for regular updates on contests, Kickstarter status, and other news in the coming days, including this special feature following the fictional (but fact-based) exploits of a team of up-and-coming esports participants!