We are well into the third quarter of 2019 and already it has proven to be a great year for Esports. With the Fortnite World Cup having just wrapped up, which saw 16 years old Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf walking home the US$3 million in front of over 1.3 million live viewers, the second season of the Overwatch League in full swing as well as the first ever SEA Games to feature Esports as medal events just a few months away, 2019 has provided multiple stepping stones in various areas which promises many encouraging developments for the scene in the near future.
In February 2019, it was reported that Fortnite had more than 250 million registered players worldwide. With its mainstream appeal and popularity, it’s expected this number will keep on increasing and will potentially reach 300 million players next year.
The Fortnite World Cup (FWC) proved that the battle royale Esports scene isn’t just super popular thanks to it being a fun game, however it’s also extremely wide in its appeal thanks to the game’s family-friendly aesthetics and frequent partnerships with other brands like movies, TV shows, and more.
The trend for almost any Esports tournament is that they get more and more popular each year. With more popularity comes more participation, coverage, and sponsorship which will in turn increase the prize pool.The annual DOTA 2 tournament – The International collects its prize pool through the game’s own community and in 2018 it piled up to more than US$25 million. This year, they broke the US$30 million mark, thus becoming the largest prize pool for any single Esports tournament in history.It wouldn’t be too presumptuous to assume that TI 2020 will probably make history again by possibly amassing more than US$35 million. Regardless of the outcome, The International remains a testament to how far Esports has grown and the potential that it has.2020 will be a very interesting year for Overwatch. After the Stage 3 playoffs of Overwatch League 2019 ended, Blizzard announced that OWL 2020 will be going global. Instead of just having tournaments in Los Angeles, matches will be played in the home countries of each OWL team which includes Korea, the United Kingdom, and China.
This means that Asian fans will have more affordable options to go and support their teams upfront. Not only that, this also signifies that media coverage of the events can be done better by local outlets rather than having everyone to gather in L.A. The biggest advantage goes to the players themselves, especially those in non-American teams. They will have the opportunity to play on their home turf, supported by their strongest fans.
Overwatch isn’t the only first-person shooter that’s been growing and evolving. The Call of Duty World League began in 2016 with a prize pool of US$2 million and minimal support for amateur players wanting to make it big. This year the CWL has tripled its prize pool to US$6 million and has now began hosting full-fledged amateur competitions. The top amateur tops will qualify to play in the Pro League.
CWL 2019 has also removed regional restrictions from all LAN events which means that players from anywhere in the world can come together to compete at CWL events. This easily translates to more teams, both pros and amateurs, signing up for next year.
The mobile side of Esports also looks extremely promising in the years to come. Major events for games like PUBG Mobile, Arena of Valor, Mobile Legends, and Clash Royale are all growing across the board. The accessibility and low complications plus risk factor of mobile gaming events make it easier to host tournaments both big and small. We’ve been seeing more phone companies and telecommunications providers get involved with not only the sponsorship aspect but also sometimes even organising the events on their own.
The market and population for mobile games are growing and will keep on growing for at least the next 3 to 4 years. Telco companies are starting to see that it benefits them to dive into the mobile gaming scene especially through Esports. Another optimistic outlook for 2020 can be projected from observing the amount of female players in Esports. We’re seeing more and more women make a name for themselves in games played by their males counterparts.
However, Esports participation in general still makes up a very small portion of the people who play video games. In terms of female participation, this portion is further reduced. Seeing as how Esports isn’t like traditional sports where the physical differences between male and female may significantly affect the outcome of competition, we hope that more skilled female can enter the scene and perform well.
Last but not least, let’s talk about China. Whether it’s PC games like League of Legends or DOTA and mobile games like PUBG Mobile (Game of Peace in China) and Arena of Valor, China is a gigantic Esports industry. Reported back in 2017, the number of people who play video games in China outnumber the population of the United States.
Esports organisers and sponsors simply cannot ignore the opportunities that China presents. Cities throughout the nation are competing against each other to become a major Esports hub. Esports arenas, team training facilities and more are constantly being built up.
Hong Kong is also making sure that they aren’t left behind. This year alone the government has approved a HK$100 million budget for Esports. With that in mind, half of that budget was used to construct a new Esports arena in Cyberport Hong Kong.
Cyberport’s new Esports venue is a 4,000 square meters complex large enough to fit 500 attendees. A few exhibitional League of Legend matches were held during the venue’s opening and Cyberport CEO Peter Yan King-shun stated that there will be a variety of events planned to be held every week for the next nine months after the venue’s opening.
Undoubtedly, 2020 will be an interesting and exciting year for Esports throughout the world. There are tons of tournaments and developments coming our way and there’s never been a better time to be a fan of professional gaming.