Esports and the Need for Innovation
Esports and the Need for Innovation In 2020, the sports and entertainment world turned to esports for salvation. With travel and fan attendance restricted for obvious reasons, it was thought that esports and its capacity for the virtual organization could fill the void left by traditional entertainment options. “To the industry’s credit, many of these … Continued
Esports and the Need
In 2020, the sports and entertainment world turned to esports for salvation. With travel and fan attendance restricted for obvious reasons, it was thought that esports and its capacity for the virtual organization could fill the void left by traditional entertainment options.
However, it quickly became apparent that things weren’t quite so simple. Contrary to popular belief, esports could not adjust on a dime to the new normal. While esports was well-positioned to take over from esports, there were myriad challenges – conceptual as well as logistical – which prevented maximum capitalization on a barren entertainment landscape.
In terms of concept, it became apparent during the pandemic that some major entertainment entities did not precisely know how esports fit into their portfolio. For instance, the NBA decided to promote its NBA stars playing lackluster NBA2K matches on ESPN and ESPN2 rather than highlighting high-quality play by esports professionals in their still-fledgling NBA2K League.
Even traditional esports leagues and organizers struggled to figure out changes to their business model. Esports organizers, long dependent on in-person attendance for revenues, lost massive amounts of money when crowds were banned worldwide. Most titles had to shut down world championships, major tourneys, and even online competitions simply because organizers were not ready. While it was assumed that esports could operate purely virtually, the facts disagreed.
When esports tournaments went fully remote, logistical and technological challenges abounded. Everything from lag caused by uneven and often inadequate telecommunications infrastructure, lack of easy esports integrity assurance without in-person referees, and difficulties in coordinating remote broadcasts were just some of the challenges that crippled esports competition for months. To the industry’s credit, many of these challenges were quickly overcome but, even now, solutions are more patchwork and ad hoc than most would care to admit.
Despite all of these challenges, the esports industry did show its resilience and inventiveness to not only survive but grow during the pandemic. However, going forward, it has become clear to those within the industry that there is a need for innovation for esports to reach the next stage of sustained growth.
For the past few years, esports has been in a stage of consolidation. Rather than continuing to entertain dozens and dozens of esports titles and organizations, the industry has developed into having fewer, but larger, entities providing higher-level competition across fewer, but more supported, esports titles.
The pandemic has only accelerated such consolidation and thirst for development. These larger entities will require greater innovation to achieve the next stage of growth. As the pandemic demonstrated, there is no point in having a captive audience if existing solutions and technologies don’t allow for engagement and conversion.
For esports, this means increased emphasis on new solutions and technologies that solve the problem of the ‘last mile’ in bringing esports directly to the consumer at home. From broadcast technologies to blockchain, esports organizations are looking for novel ways to deliver their product and associated fan experiences and services to an increasingly rabid and expansive audience.
With the timeline for a pandemic-free world with unrestricted travel unclear, it is up to innovators such as the people in this accelerator to provide fresh, creative options for the industry. They’re ready to listen.
Jason is a business school professor and lawyer passionate about the intersection of sport, health, and technology. He builds programs and ecosystems focused on improving future generations, which explains his passion for influencing tomorrow’s leaders in a positive manner. He is providing his professional expertise to help organizations charge into esports in dynamic, organized, and sustainable ways.