Although present day eSports has its origins in South Korea, and has been popular in Europe for years, professional video gaming has just recently become big business in the U.S.
“The demand is amazing and the U.S. eSports market has exploded in last 12 to 18 months,” Ralf Reichert, managing director of ESL/Turtle Entertainment, says. “It’s our biggest market today and is the epicenter of eSports globally now.”
According to Newzoo, North America accounts for $112.6 million, or 41%, of global eSports revenues today, compared to $36.7 million in China and $28.9 million in South Korea. Newzoo also forecasts that North America will remain the largest market in terms of revenues through 2018. And according to SuperData Research CEO Joost van Dreunen, the U.S. eSports audience has grown from just under 2 million fans in 2010 to over 32 million this year.
“The U.S. has traditionally been the most important entertainment market in the world, both in terms of revenues and cultural relevance,” van Dreunen says. “Capturing this market is key for both ESL and Major League Gaming (MLG) because it makes them leaders in the global market.”
That’s why German-owned Turtle Entertainment, one of the largest eSports company in the world, is hosting two large eSports events in the U.S. this fall: ESL One at Madison Square Garden (which took place Oct. 3-4) and Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) at SAP Centre Nov. 21-22.
“Both of these events last year were half sold out and we expect to sell them out this year,” Reichert says. “We’re going to add additional U.S. stops next year. We’re very aggressive with the stadium event expansion.”
“Our product strategy is to produce in-studio productions and large stadium events,” Reichert says. “We’re building out large stadium events because we think—and the community thinks—that’s where eSports belongs.”
The explosive growth in the U.S., and the continued global popularity of eSports, has opened up new opportunities for game developers and publishers to succeed in eSports. Reichert believes that every game that is played by a threshold of 200,000 people monthly has the potential to evolve into a new eSport. There are only four games that can fill a stadium today—League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), and World of Tanks.
“That number will grow and if we add one new game per year, I wouldn’t be surprised if five years from now there are 10 games that can sell out stadiums,” Reichert says.
The U.S. is a bigger part of the global plan for the largest eSports company in the world. Reichert sees the recent entry of Turner Broadcasting into eSports as something that’s good for the entire industry.
“ESports is growing more rapidly than anyone ever expected,” Reichert says. “The increasing interest of traditional media and sports companies entering the industry will hopefully help eSports advance even further. Our job is to make sure that this is not just short-term hype, but translates into sustainable and authentic growth for eSports.”
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